In a defiant final speech in Congress Thursday, Rep. Katie Hill unleashed on the “double standard” and “misogynistic culture” that she says caused her to step down amid allegations of an improper relationship with a staffer.
“I’m leaving, but 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,” the congresswoman said in a fiery address, just hours after the House voted to move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation of Hill last week over allegations that she had a relationship with one of her male staffers in violation of congressional rules. Hill denied that allegation but admitted to having an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staffer.
Complicating the matter was Hill’s claim that her estranged husband had assisted in spreading the allegations against her and possibly aided in the publication of her nude photographs—which would make Hill a victim of revenge porn, or the distribution of someone’s nude images without their consent.
Hill apologized profusely on Thursday to those who supported her, but also took aim at those who circulated hundreds of her private images.
“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 has vowed to pursue “all of our legal options” against those who “weaponized” her personal images. She is being represented by high-profile revenge-porn attorney Carrie Goldberg, who tweeted Wednesday that her client could “sue the f*ck out of the far right media that had the audacity to peddle her intimate pictures.”
“The government has a monopoly on who gets charged with a crime and when,” Goldberg wrote. “But in civil court, a victim of nonconsensual porn can start a case themselves and sue for removal, assert their copyright, and sue for money.”
Hill used her final act in Congress to take action against another man, voting to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. And her speech echoed the frustration some felt upon seeing her resign while the president—who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 women—remains in office.
“Today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings," she said. “Not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct, but because of the deepest abuse of power—including the abuse of power over women.”
Democrats have struggled with how to respond to Hill’s resignation, with many lawmakers and women’s groups opting to say nothing at all. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially released a statement saying Hill’s “errors in judgment” made her continued service “untenable,” but appeared to soften her stance during a press conference Thursday.
“Katie Hill’s decision to resign is her decision. She’s an absolutely outstanding young public servant,” she said, adding later, “Regardless of any errors of judgment they have made, it’s shameful that she has been exposed to public humiliation by cyber exploitation.”
Other Democrats have been more outspoken. In an interview with Politico, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez—part of Hill’s freshman class—argued that the release of the congresswoman's nude photos would deter young women from running for office. “I don't think we’re really talking about how targeted and serious this is. We're talking about a major crime... being committed against her,” she said.
The allegations against Hill were first published by conservative website RedState, quoting a Facebook post by her estranged husband. The website later published a nude photo of Hill in an article written by a former campaign adviser to Steve Knight, the California Republican whom Hill ousted from the House in 2018. The adviser, Jennifer Van Laar, later penned an article for the Daily Mail with more nude photos and further allegations of inappropriate relationships with staffers.
Another former Knight campaign adviser, Joe Messina, told the Los Angeles Times he had received hundreds of private text messages and nude photos of Hill by email and ordinary mail. He later wrote on his website that he had “received over 700 images, pictures, texts, and notes on the escapades of one Katie Hill, both before and after her election.”
Six Republicans have already filed paperwork to run for Hill’s seat, according to The New York Times. The contenders include former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopolous, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during the campaign. Democrat Christy Smith, a California state assemblywoman, has also announced plans to run.
Hill, however, signaled in her speech that she would not resign from public life, yielding her time back to the floor “for now—but not forever.”
“Yes, I'm stepping down, but I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful,” she said. “It might feel like they’ve won in the short term, but they can’t in the long term.”
She added later, “We will not stand down, we will not be broken. We will rise, and we will make tomorrow better than today.”