Rep. Katie Hill, freshman targeted by revenge porn, resigns with a blast at Trump

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

During her final speech on the House floor Thursday, Rep. Katie Hill apologized for actions that led to her resignation while also boasting that her last vote as a member of Congress was in favor of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

“I wanted to show young people, queer people, working people, imperfect people that they belong here, because this is the people’s house. I fell short of that and I’m sorry. To every young person who saw themselves and their dreams reflected in me, I’m sorry. To those who felt like I gave them hope in one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, I’m sorry. To my family, my friends, my staff, my colleagues, my mentors, to everyone who’s supported and believed in me, I’m sorry.”

She continued: “And to every little girl who looked up to me, I hope that one day you can forgive me.”

Days earlier, the first-term California lawmaker had announced her resignation after nude photos of her were leaked to media outlets amid allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a subordinate.

While Hill admitted to a relationship with a female campaign staffer during the final years of what she called an “abusive marriage,” she denied having a relationship with a congressional aide — a more serious charge that would constitute a violation of House ethics rules.

The 32-year-old Democrat, who is openly bisexual, said the nude photos published by a conservative website and a British tabloid, and the potential that more might be released, were major factors in her decision to resign.

“I’m leaving because there is only one investigation that deserves this country’s attention,” Hill said, referring to the impeachment inquiry that the House voted hours earlier to formalize.

“The forces of revenge by a bitter, jealous man, cyber-exploitation, and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here,” Hill said. “Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who’s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control their own bodies, sits in the highest office in the land.

“And so today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings, 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.”

Rep. Katie Hill gives her farewell address on the House floor. (Screengrab via CSPAN)

The scandal around Hill’s resignation had raised questions about targeting by right-wing political operatives and her ex-husband.

“I’m leaving now because of a double standard,” she said in her speech. “I’m leaving now because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen, and the right-wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent, for the sexual entertainment of millions.”

She added: “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.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference before the House vote that she respected Hill and was saddened by her decision to resign, but she also saw it as a useful lesson to young people to avoid situations that could someday be the subject of so-called “revenge porn.”

“Katie Hill’s decision to resign is her decision,” she said. “She’s an absolutely outstanding young public servant — very smart, strategic, patriotic, loves our country, respected by her colleagues in the Congress for the work that she does here.”

Pelosi then went on to note warnings she’d given her family, “especially grandchildren,” to be careful when it comes to “these appearances on social media.”

They “can come back to haunt you if they are taken out of context,” Pelosi said.

“Regardless of any errors in judgment that anyone may have made, it’s shameful that she’s been exposed to public humiliation by cyber-exploitation, and I caution everyone that they too may be subjected to that, so to be careful.”

“Congresswomen across America have been subjected to this type of harassment and abuse, which is a profound violation of those women’s rights — men too — and human dignity,” she said. The issue “is bigger than one person. It’s about how people have presented themselves over time and, again, exploitation by others who get the information and we don’t know how. That’s just not right. And actually, there’s a legal question involved in it as well.”

Hill has said she intends to pursue legal action concerning the release of the photos.

Fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., defended Hill against what she told Politico is “a major crime ... being committed against her.”

“I don’t think we’re really talking about how targeted and serious this is,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who earlier this year was depicted in lewd drawings that originated from a Facebook group of current and former Border Patrol agents. She asserted that Hill’s experience will “of course” deter some younger women from running for office.

Hill, who said today was the first time she’d left her apartment since the nude photos of her were published, said that “hiding away and disappearing would be the one unforgivable sin.”

“I ask you all to stand with me and commit to a future where this no longer happens to women and girls,” she said. “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.

“It might seem like they won in the short term, but they can’t in the longer term,” she continued. “The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders, because the more we show up, the less power they have.”

Hill closed out her speech by saying she voted to “move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on the behalf of the women of the United States of America,” before she yielded the balance of her time “for now but not forever.”

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