When former Massachusetts Democratic congressman Barney Frank first learned that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) was resigning, he assumed it was related to longstanding rumours about Schock’s sexuality.
“He was outed or what?” Frank said when Business Insider asked for his thoughts on Tuesday afternoon shortly after news of Schock’s resignation broke.
Frank became one of the first openly gay members of the US Congress when he came out in 1987. He visited Business Insider’s headquarters on Tuesday to discuss his new book, “Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.”
When Frank was informed that Schock’s resignation stemmed from questions over his use of campaign and taxpayer funds, he noted that the congressman was reported to have improperly accepted money in order to take a male companion on one of his foreign trips.
“Wasn’t it [that] he took somebody with him?” Frank asked. “I thought he also traveled with one particular staffer.”
Indeed, Schock’s travel with a male non-staffer was one of the things that fuelled rumours about his sexuality. The various stories led the gay magazine “Out” to say that Schock is “believed to be working in a glass closet on Capitol Hill” in a story on his resignation.
Frank noted “there’s been the rumour” about Schock.
“I dont know if it’s true,” Frank added.
However, Frank went on to explain that Schock has no “right to privacy” due to his record on gay issues. Schock has what the Huffington Post has described as a “virulently anti-gay voting history,” including votes against hate crimes legislation and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
“I will say this, I don’t know if he’s gay or not. But if he is, he’s forfeited any right to privacy because he votes anti-gay,” Frank said of Schock. “My view is that people who are gay who vote to support the right of other people to do it have a right to privacy, but the right to privacy does not include hypocrisy.”
Schock’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Frank’s remarks.
The questions about Schock’s spending on travel, entertainment, and personal expenses began to mount after a Washington Post story published last month revealed that he gave his Capitol Hill office a lavish makeover in the style of the hit PBS show “Downton Abbey.” The series is based on the lives of a wealthy English family in the early 20th century.
Frank, who said he “watched like two episodes” of “Downton Abbey,” also weighed in on Schock’s interior design choices.
“The one thing that puzzled me, the New York Times had a story about how he redecorated his office to look like ‘Downton Abbey,’ but all I saw were pictures of like Ulysses S. Grant,” Frank said. “It’s obviously sort of disjunctive in my mind. There were all these pictures of Republican presidents. I don’t know what they were doing in ‘Downton Abbey.’ I suppose you could say, from a certain angle, Herbert Hoover does look a little bit like Maggie Smith depending on the light, but nobody could have been Ulysses S. Grant.”
Frank also suggested that, if the rumours are true, Schock should definitely come out now that he is leaving Congress.
“Of course he should,” Frank said. He concluded with a reference to Schock’s muscular physique, which he often displayed in shirtless photos on his Instagram.
“Yeah, if they’re true, and I don’t know that they are. I have to say, if they’re not true, he spent entirely too much time in the gym for a straight man.”