Aaron Schock came out as gay on Thursday, and a famous former resident of Illinois’ 18th District, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, isn’t here for it.
“The amount of queens I’m seeing like Aaron Schock’s insta is such a lol,” the star wrote Friday on Instagram. “This man lived in the closet while voting against LGBTQ interests for years.”
The hair and skin care expert mentioned that he and Schock, along with Annie Brahler (the interior designer who offered to renovate Schock’s congressional office), hail from the same area.
“His apology wholly dodged any responsibility in the awful actions he perpetuated against our community,” wrote Van Ness, who has campaigned for Democratic candidates in the past and last year met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Hill.
“I hope you actually work to undo your legacy,” he added.
And then there were the people who read Schock’s statement and didn’t see anything resembling an “apology” at all.
One former colleague of Schock’s offered a public message of support — sort of. “Our best quality as a community is that we welcome into our movement with love our former opponents,” tweeted Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, just one of several openly LBGTQ members currently serving in Congress.
It wasn’t much of an affirmation, but then again, neither was Schock’s voting record. When the Illinois Republican was in the House, he shot down efforts to expand rights for gay people. He opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Observers were quick to bring up those votes as they reacted to Schock’s coming out letter, which he posted to Instagram on Thursday. The news wasn’t really news, he acknowledged, since his sexuality had fueled speculation during his career in Washington from 2009 to 2015.
“In many ways I regret the time wasted,” Schock wrote.
For those who wanted to see contrition, it wasn’t enough. “The hell with him,” tweeted radio host Michelangelo Signorile, complaining he didn’t address the harm his votes had done.
Even Maloney, who called for loving welcome, offered a pretty big caveat, saying his onetime colleague “needs to own up to his misconduct in office & apologize to all who fought (over his opposition) to win him his new found rights.”
As the reactions piled up, it was hard to separate the anger over Schock’s voting record from the anger over his money scandals, which led to a grand jury indictment. (Federal prosecutors later dropped the charges, and Schock agreed to reimburse his campaign and pay back taxes.)
Schock spent much of Thursday’s letter, which clocked in at more than 2,000 words, attempting to head off both lines of criticism.
All the spending questions led to “legal hell,” the former lawmaker wrote, once again denying he’d spent lavishly to redecorate his office to look like a set from “Downton Abbey.” (He still hasn’t seen the period drama, he wrote.)
As for his voting record, many others in his party, as well as some Democrats, took the same anti-gay positions, Schock pointed out.
“I’ve also been cautioned by my fellow gays active in politics about what to expect from the LBGTQ public,” wrote Schock, who was just 27 when he took office, making him the youngest member of Congress at the time. “Where was I, they will ask, when I was a politician to help advance the issues important to gay Americans?”
In the end, he didn’t say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, he offered a claim that no one could prove or disprove: “If I were in Congress today, I would support LGBTQ rights in every way I could.”
Jonathan Van Ness didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.