California representative Katie Hill resigned on Sunday, 12 days after a right-wing website published intimate photos of her and a campaign staffer taken without her consent. Though Hill acknowledged that the relationship was unethical, she repeatedly emphasized that the publication of the photos was incredibly violating, against the law, and potentially orchestrated by her ex-husband, who she says abused her. Today, she cast her last vote on the House floor, and then gave her final speech, excoriating the conservative press for how it had treated her and lambasting sexist double standards in how sexual misconduct cases are handled.
Hill, a freshman Democrat and rising star in the party, opened her remarks by asking for forgiveness from “every little girl” who looked up to her after her groundbreaking congressional run. She said that she had not been able to leave her apartment since conservative website Redstate ran the story that contained explicit images of Hill and the young female staffer, who has remained anonymous. Hill was also accused of having a relationship with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, which, if true, would directly violate ethics rules. While she has denied the relationship with Kelly, she admitted to having a relationship with the staffer last week, saying that even though she knew it was inappropriate, she “allowed it to happen.” Before she resigned, she was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. “I’m terrified of facing the people I let down,” Hill said in her speech.
But most of her comments did not address the alleged wrongdoing against her subordinate, or express remorse beyond the “people I’ve hurt.” Instead, Hill was defiantly critical of what she saw as a combined effort by her ex-husband Kenny Heslep, who she claims was abusive, and the right wing media. The Redstate story contained text messages between Heslep, who filed for divorce from Hill in July, and the staffer that suggested Hill had been abusive toward her; per the Los Angeles Times, the story’s main authors were former campaign advisers to Steve Knight, the Republican Hill defeated in 2018. “I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip,” Hill said, in which she called “gutter politics.” She said she was told that conservative media operatives had “hundreds more photos” of her that they would continue to release until she quit.
Hill also spoke out against what she described as a double standard between the salacious, sexualized coverage of the allegations against her as a woman, and that of the many high-ranking men accused of abusing their own power. “We have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office,” she said, calling out Donald Trump directly as a man who has been accused of sexual assault and rape. She said she cast her final vote, in favor of an impeachment inquiry, “on behalf of the women of the United States of America. We will not stand down. We will not be broken.”