Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) blasted what she called a “double standard” as she resigned from her House seat following the publication of explicit photos on the right-wing site RedState.
“I am leaving now because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip,” she said on the floor of the House on Thursday. “I am leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites and used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I have ever seen.”
She said that the photos were taken without her knowledge or consent and were being used “for the sexual entertainment of millions.”
She said that ever since the images surfaced, she had “barely left her bed.” Her appearance today for the vote on an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump was the first time since then that she had left her apartment, she said. She said that she had received “thousands of vile, threatening emails, calls and texts that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people that I care about.”
Hill faced an ethics investigation over allegations of inappropriate relations with one of her congressional staffers, something that she denied. But she acknowledged having a sexual relationship with a campaign staff member as she was running for office last year.
Hill was a favorite of Hollywood donors as Democrats sought to retake the House last year, and a number of entertainment figures showed up to canvass in her district in northern Los Angeles and parts of Ventura County during the fall campaign. This cycle, she already raised $131,733 from showbiz sources, the most of any House incumbent seeking re-election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Hill said that she was resigning even as other public figures, namely Trump, have been “credibly accused” of acts of sexual violence, yet have not faced repercussions.
She took aim at the publication of the explicit photos, which were posted to the RedState site. Saying they amount to “cyber exploitation” and “cyber shaming,” Hill said she had been told that there were “hundreds” more photos and text messages that would have been leaked out.
She also blamed her estranged husband, Kenneth Heslep, with whom she was going through divorce proceedings. In her resignation letter on Sunday, Hill said that right-wing sites had given Heslep a “platform” to conduct a “smear campaign built around cyber exploitation.”
“I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching,” she said. Hill is openly bisexual.
She added, “We have an entire culture that has to change.”
Hill’s father, Michael, told ABC News that they were pursuing prosecution under a so-called “revenge porn” law that is in place in California and Washington, D.C.
Hill also apologized to her family, friends and supporters for the turn of events, saying that she “fell short” and “I am sorry.”
“The mistakes I made and the people I’ve hurt that led to this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life, and I have to come to terms with that,” she said.
Before Hill’s speech, to a largely empty chamber, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) hugged her, as did Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), right after she finished. The three congresswomen have been among the highest-profile members of the freshman class.
Hill suggested that her final vote, one that formalizes the impeachment inquiry against Trump, was especially ironic. She said that while she is leaving, “a man who brags about his sexual predation” is still in office.
“I am leaving because there is only one investigation that deserves the attention of this country, and that is the one we voted on today,” she said. She said that she cast her vote “on behalf of the women of the United States of America.”
Among the candidates who have formally expressed their intent to pursue Hill’s seat is George Papadopoulos, who was foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. He served 12 days in prison for lying to federal investigators after pleading guilty as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.