It started harmlessly enough. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris waltzed into Rep. Aaron Schock’s office and noticed the deep-red walls and out-of-place decor.
A helpful aide at the front desk volunteered that the office had been done up to resemble the red room in the PBS hit “Downton Abbey.” Another person asked Terris if he wanted to see the rest of the office. She was quite proud of it; she was the designer.
What followed was all too “This Town.” Terris’ interest in the interior design chosen by Schock — the 33-year-old Illinois Republican best known for baring his chiseled physique for Men’s Health magazine — sparked an as-yet-unexplained panic.
Schock’s six-pack abs are for the world to see, but his office is most definitely not. His spokesman and senior adviser, Benjamin Cole, quickly went into crisis-management mode. But the crisis was not managed.
A staffer asked Terris to delete the photos he had taken. Cole tried to bargain with the reporter, essentially promising future access to Schock if Terris didn’t run with the story (um, yuck). After Cole reneged on a deal on the story’s timing, The Post published the report Monday night.
By Tuesday afternoon, a story that Terris initially hadn’t thought much of had prompted ethics watchdogs to question the services the designer reportedly offered free of charge.
By Wednesday afternoon, Schock had said he would pay her for the work. “Haters are gonna hate,” he said.
By Thursday morning, news outlets had found social-media musings from Cole in which he made derogatory references to African Americans and joked about President Barack Obama being a secret Muslim.
By Thursday afternoon, Cole had resigned.
And perhaps the most absurd part of it all? Schock told ABC News that he isn’t even a “Downton” fan. He hasn’t seen a single episode.
Aaron Schock, for seeing your office politics turn into a serial soap opera, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post.