Lawmaker's aide resigns after reports of racial comments

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top aide to Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned Thursday following published reports that he posted racially charged comments on social media.

Benjamin Cole had served as the four-term Republican lawmaker's spokesman since March.

In a statement to the Peoria Journal Star, Schock said he was "extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff."

Schock said he expects better, adding that Cole offered to resign after meeting with the lawmaker Thursday.

The meeting came after the liberal website Think Progress on Thursday published posts from Cole's personal Facebook page that included comments mocking two black people outside his Washington apartment.

Earlier this week, Cole tried to stop a Washington Post reporter from taking photos of Schock's congressional office, which is decorated in a style modeled after the TV show "Downton Abbey."

"Are you taking pictures of the office?" the newspaper quoted Cole as asking. "Who told you you could do that?"

A staff member then asked the reporter to delete the photos from his cell phone, the Post reported.

A watchdog group has requested an ethics inquiry over the interior design work, which was donated by Illinois interior decorator Annie Brahler.

House rules broadly prohibit members of Congress from accepting gifts or services valued at more than $50. The rules include numerous exemptions, including one that allows gifts from personal friends.

Brahler, who owns an Illinois-based firm called Euro Trash, also decorated Schock's previous Washington office.

Schock told ABC News Wednesday that he paid Brahler about $6,000 to decorate his office four years ago and will pay her again this year once he receives an invoice. He used a personal check last time and expects to do so again, Schock said.

The 33-year-old Schock acknowledged that the brightly decorated office is more distinctive than most in Congress, but he said, "I've never been an old crusty white guy."


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