Rep. Katie Hill Resigns Amid ‘Revenge Porn’ Posts, Investigation of Relationship

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(WB) Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), the only out bisexual in the U.S. House, is set to resign her seat amid a growing scandal that includes “revenge porn” of nude images of her posted online and an admission to having an “inappropriate” relationship with a campaign staffer.

Hill made the announcement Sunday night on her Twitter account, where she posted a formal letter dated Oct. 27 to member of Congress.

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill wrote. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community and our country.”

Politico was first to report the news of Hill’s resignation, which will likely be disappointing to LGBT advocates and progressives who were hoping she’d be among the new wave of Democratic leaders in Congress. Hill doesn’t cites a formal resignation date in her letter, but Politico reported she’ll step down Hill could “step aside as soon as Nov. 1.”

The House Ethics Committee announced last week it was investigating an alleged relationship Hill had with her legislative staffer, Graham Kelly. Having a sexual relationship with a staffer in Congress is against House rules. Hill has denied the relationship.

The troubles for Hill, 32, started earlier this month when RedState, a California-based conservative media outlet, published evidence she was engaged in a “throuple” with her husband she’s now in the process of divorcing and a female campaign staffer over the course of the 2018 election. Among the images RedState posted was a redacted nude photo of Hill combining the hair of the campaign staffer.

Last week, Hill admitted to having an “inappropriate” relationship with the campaign staffer, acknowledging that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate. Hill also blamed the RedState posts on Republican operatives and an “abusive husband” whom she’s in the process of divorcing, which she echoed in her resignation letter.

“This is what needs to happen so that good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill wrote. “Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy. It’s also illegal, and we are currently pursuing all of our available legal options.” 

RedState subsequently reported on Hill’s alleged relationship with her legislative staffer, posting an apparent text message exchange with her husband saying he was aware of the affair. 

Hill consulted with Democratic leaders, which lead to the House Ethics Committee investigation. The House Ethics Committee statement only mentions the relationship with the legislative staffer, not the campaign staffer, which would fall outside of the committee’s jurisdiction because it occurred before Hill took office.

Although many progressives disappointed in Hill’s resignation placed the blame squarely on “revenge porn” posts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement solely mentioned “errors in judgment” from Hill.

“Congresswoman Katie Hill came to Congress with a powerful commitment to her community and a bright vision for the future, and has made a great contribution as a leader of the freshman class,” Pelosi said. “She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a member untenable. We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”

Things went from bad to worse for Hill as the week progressed. The Daily Mail, a conservative U.K.-based outlet, published another redacted nude photo of Hill smoking a bong. Attorneys for Hill sent a cease-and-desist order to the Daily Mail after the publication.

“For the mistakes made along the way and the people who have been hurt, I am so sorry, and I am learning — I am not a perfect person and never pretended to be,” Hill wrote. “It’s one of the things that made my race so special. I hope it showed others that they do belong, that their voice does matter and that they do have a place in this country. This is something I believe with all my heart.”

Following the news, numerous voices could be heard on Twitter decrying the unfairness of Hill being forced to resignation while President Trump, who also has been accused of sexual misconduct, is allowed to remain in the White House. Since the time Trump has took office, more than 40 women have accused him of sexual assault over the course of his lifetime.

Robyn Ochs, a San Antonio, Texas-based bisexual activist, said Hill was “doing an excellent job representing her constituents, so this is a loss for her district.” 

“I find it particularly disturbing that Hill was subjected to revenge porn, and that Red State, a right-wing outlet, published a nude photo of her without her consent,” Ochs said. “If only Republicans would hold themselves to the same high standards and resign when they commit ethical violations, as did Katie Hill.”

A surprise Hill defender was Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump supporter in Congress who led House Republicans in storming into the classified impeachment proceedings conducted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Gaetz took to Twitter to call the House Ethics Committee investigation into Hill “just absurd.”

“The only person who seems to have a gripe is @RepKatieHill’s soon-to-be ex,” Gaetz tweeted. “Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text? Katie isn’t being investigated by Ethics or maligned because she hurt anyone — it is because she is different.”

“I serve on Armed Services with Katie and while we frequently disagree on substance, she is always well-prepared, focused and thoughtful,” Gaetz added.

Hill had been outspoken on LGBT rights over the course of her campaign and as a member of Congress. She has championed legislation barring use of Medicaid funds for conversion therapy and co-sponsored a resolution condemning Housing & Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as transphobic. 

When the Equality Act came to a vote on the House floor in May, Hill led the Democratic opposition to a motion to recommit that would have undermined the bill. The California Democrat declared to her Republican colleagues, despite their opposition to trans rights, they have met transgender people before.

Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, praised Hill for her work in Congress in the aftermath of her resignation.

“It’s been a difficult week, knowing that Rep. Hill is a passionate fighter for equality and watching as some media outlets appealed to biphobia and sexism to sensationalize the allegations,” Imse said. “We trust that Rep. Hill is making the best decision for both her and her constituents.”

Hill’s resignation opens up a seat in a traditionally “red” congressional district in Orange County, Calif.  It wasn’t immediately clear whether a special election will follow under California law in the 25th congressional district.


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