Itay Hod was already not a fan of Aaron Schock, a Republican congressman from Illinois who has toed the party line and consistently voted against pro-LGBT legislation.
But the openly gay freelance journalist, who worked for CBS News for several years, reached his boiling point earlier this month when he heard a story about Schock from a friend, a fellow reporter.
The story involved the friend’s gay roommate and Schock, a young politician who has gotten more attention for displaying his impressive physique on the pages of Men’s Health than for any legislation he has championed.
Hod, appearing at an event held by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association earlier this month, told the crowd: ‘While (my friend) was living in Washington DC and working for a reputable network that we all watch, he comes home one day and he catches his roommate, who is gay, coming out of the shower with Aaron Schock.’
Hod quoted the friend as saying: ‘Trust me, I know what Aaron Schock looks like, I’ve done stories on him. … There was no question in my mind that this was Aaron Schock.’
Schock’s office in Washington DC did not respond to Gay Star News when contacted via email and by telephone for comment on Hod’s story which quickly went viral when he posted it on Facebook.
Although he openly mentioned Schock by name at the NLGJA event in Los Angeles, his original Facebook post detailed the shower story but referred to a hypothetical congressman from Illinois and included a link to an AmericaBlog item about Schock’s Instagram tastes.
‘I knew that it was a very sensitive subject … I didn’t mention his name and sort of presented it as a hypothetical even though it wasn’t a hypothetical one,’ Hod said. ‘I made it very clear as to who I was talking about. … I stand 100% behind what I said.’
Hod said he had not heard from anyone connected to the 32-year-old Schock since the Facebook post that led to widespread coverage and a story on Hod in The New York Times.
‘If Aaron Schock wants to sue me he is more than welcome to. I welcome it,’ Hod insisted. ‘I think it would be the stupidest thing that he could do because it opens the door for everyone to cover it. Aaron Schock has been playing it very smartly until now by not saying a single word about this.’
Hod said what he finds particularly galling about Schock is his voting record.
‘He was against the repeal of DOMA, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he was against the inclusion of gays and transgenders to the hate crimes bill which, to me, is the worst thing you can do. Even if you’re not gay I think that’s something you should be in favor of. He’s also against gay marriage.’
Hod told his fellow journalists at the NLGJA event that he is frustrated with news organizations – both LGBT and mainstream – being so reluctant to out public figures.
He shared that the friend who told him about the shower incident told a superior at his network what he had seen and was told ‘you can’t out anyone, it’s a personal journey.’
‘I was livid,’ Hod said. ‘The problem I saw was not just that Aaron Schock is able to do what he’s able to do and get away with it, he’s able to get away with it because we are not doing our jobs in making sure that that doesn’t happen. We still have an issue with outing people, we still have an issue with a very sensitive subject and we need to change that perception.’
‘People always say this is a private matter that isn’t something we should ask about and that’s where I disagree,’ Hod also said. ‘We can ask a celebrity or a politician anything about their life but one thing we’re not allowed to ask is, "Are you gay?" It’s taboo. I feel not only is it fair game, I feel it’s our obligation. We’re not debating if you should be able to have a private life but you shouldn’t be able to have a secret life that goes in direct conflict with the laws that you’re legislating.’
Hod currently freelances for The Daily Beast and was asked if he is concerned about his career as a journalist after taking such a public stand against Schock.
‘If I don’t get a job because of this, then it’s not a job I’m supposed to have,’ he said. ‘I don’t really want to work for a place that’s going to have an issue with me exposing – I don’t see this as outing, I actually see this as exposing.’
He admitted though, if he were still employed by CBS News, he’s not sure if he would have done the same thing.
‘I would like to think that I would – I probably would have done it and probably would have gotten fired,’ he said. ‘Luckily for me, I’m a freelance reporter at the moment. I’m my own boss and I can choose and pick whatever I want to do and no one can really fire me. They can choose not to hire me again. No regrets.’
(Full disclosure: The Q&A at the event where Hod appeared was moderated by the author of this article who is president of the LA chapter of NLGJA)