PEORIA — A top aide to U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock has resigned today, following reports that he made racially charged comments on his personal Facebook page.
Benjamin Cole has served as the fourth-term Peoria lawmaker's spokesman -- and as a "senior adviser" -- since March of 2014.
A series of posts on his personal Facebook page were unearthed Thursday first by a writer for the liberal website Think Progress and then by Buzzfeed that sparked the controversy.
"I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff," Schock said in a statement to the Journal Star. "I would expect better from any member of my team. Upon learning about them I met with Mr. Cole and he offered his resignation which I have accepted."
In one post from during the 2013 government shutdown, Cole posts what Think Progress reported as a video of an African American woman outside his apartment on the street who was shouting. It was headed, "So apparently the closing of the National Zoo has forced the animals to conduct their mating rituals on my street. #gentrifytoday Pt 1"
The site did not actually show the video, merely a photo of the post.
Another that appears from December of that year describes both a shooting victim and perpetrator in his neighborhood as "hood rats."
One reported by Buzzfeed from 2010 has Cole suggesting a mosque should be built on White House grounds so that President Barack Obama would have a place to worship.
The situation with Cole caps off a week that began with a story first posted by the Washington Post about redecoration work conducted in Schock's Capitol Hill office -- not at taxpayer expense -- by Jacksonville-based interior designer Annie Brahler, who has previously done work decorating the Peoria Republican's first congressional office as well as work on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's office. The Post report on that featured Cole initially seeking to slow or prevent reporting on it.