Rep. Katie Hill, the millennial, bisexual, cable news celebrity politician from California’s 25th Congressional District, abruptly resigned Sunday, amid a social media sex scandal for the revenge porn, #MeToo era.
“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Democrat Hill wrote in a statement.
Even as wannabe successors immediately began lining up for a 2020 special election campaign to replace her, many supporters of the 32-year-old Democrat struggled to fathom the swift-moving events that wrecked her promising career within a few days, less than a year after she was elected.
Far more than a routine story about a local elected official enmeshed in a hot-sheets controversy, the sudden fall of Katie Hill not only reflects the tribal savagery of politics in the age of Trump, but also the complex crosscurrents of ethics and culture raging about gender, sex, and double standards at a time when woke progressives struggle for equality for all.
WHO IS KATIE HILL? Running as a bisexual woman outraged by Donald Trump, Hill in 2018 ousted Republican incumbent Steve Knight in the 25th District, which includes the Simi, Santa Clarita, and Antelope Valleys (Independent 10/18/2018).
She emerged as a vivid symbol of the Democrats’ success in seizing the House. In Washington after the mid-terms, Hill soon became a cable-friendly star of the party’s huge, women-led freshman class.
As a new protégé of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she quickly ascended to a leadership post, and the vice chairmanship of an influential committee now involved in impeaching Trump.
Then, about 10 days ago, the right-wing Christian website RedState published several stories about a three-way relationship she and her estranged husband shared with a woman who worked in her campaign, accompanied by details of their sex lives and a naked photo of Hill.
As the disclosures were picked up by Breitbart and the British Daily Mail, which published more explicit photos, RedState also reported the allegation that Hill had a sexual relationship with a male campaign aide who went to work in her government office.
The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation of the latter charge, which would be a violation of new, Democrat-sponsored House rules adopted last spring in the wake of burgeoning #MeToo revelations. The rule was aimed at the dynamic of powerful men using their positions to engage in sexual misconduct with women subordinates in the workplace.
After first welcoming the investigation, Hill announced on Sunday night, via Twitter, that she was quitting.
“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” she said.
#METOO CONSISTENCY: While hammering GOP hatchet men and right-wing media for weaponizing revenge porn and anti-LGBTQ slurs, some supporters also were uneasy with her behavior in carrying on at least one, and possibly two, affairs with staffers.
Erinn Lynch, Jill Fonte, and Meredith Reebach — cofounders of SPARC (Sparking Political Action, Response & Change), a community education and political engagement group they began in S.B. after Trump’s election — wrote in an op-ed published one day before the resignation of their efforts to articulate a nuanced position on the matter.
“Obviously, she is the target of a politically motivated hit, as Republicans are using homophobic tropes to frame the issue,” they wrote.
“On the other hand, Rep. Hill may have violated rules for elected House members. At the very least, she used poor judgment,” they added.
Citing Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican white male from San Diego, re-elected last year and running yet again — despite his federal indictment for using government and campaign funds to carry on extramarital affairs — they called out the extreme double standard: “We may lose Katie Hill because we still are a party that cares for accountability. In maintaining the moral high ground, are we also losing?”