Scandal Rocks Congressman’s Downton Abbey–Inspired Office

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Representative Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

You’d think a congressman whose six-pack abs have appeared on the cover of Men’s Health and whose sexuality has been coyly discussed in the New York Times would know how to handle the media by now. However, Illinois representative Aaron Schock’s staffers managed to turn an innocuous story about his office decor into an amusing case study in PR overreactions. After an enthusiastic interior decorator gave the Washington Post’s Ben Terris an impromptu tour of Schock’s new Downton Abbey–inspired office — complete with deep red walls, a crystal chandelier, and “massive arrangements of pheasant feathers” — his staff urged him to kill the story and asked him to delete photos he took of the office.

Terris reports that Schock’s communications director, Benjamin Cole, first tried to convince him that a story on the new decor (by a company called Euro Trash) wasn’t worthy of his talents. “You’ve got a member [of Congress] willing to talk to you about other things,” Cole said. “Why sour it by rushing to write some gossipy piece?” Following negotiations with Cole, the journalist agreed to hold the story in exchange for a tour with the congressman, who had yet to see his new office. After that interview fell through, Cole called back to add this caveat: “I don’t even know if he watches it; I don’t know what shows he watches. But I don’t think he watches much TV.”

Apparently Terris did not agree to delete the photos from his phone:

It’s a little flashy, but Schock’s communications staff didn’t need to launch a full blown cover-up, like some handsome Turkish diplomat died in there. Unless