US lawmaker decries 'smear campaign' in video about resignation

US Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill (pictured November 2018) said she voted for impeachment proceedings because of "abuse of power over women" (AFP Photo/MARIO TAMA)

Washington (AFP) - A US congresswoman who resigned amid lurid revelations about her private life and the publication of nude photos without her consent on Monday pledged to fight back so other women would not shy away from public office.

Katie Hill, who had been seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, said Sunday she was stepping down, after accusations that she had a sexual relationship with a subordinate in violation of House ethics rules.

The California lawmaker denied that accusation but did admit that she and her husband -- whom she is now divorcing -- engaged in a three-way sexual relationship with a female campaign staffer.

The claims came to light via reports by the conservative news site RedState which, along with the British tabloid Daily Mail, published nude photos of Hill.

In a video, Hill said she was the victim of a "horrible smear campaign" coordinated by "the right-wing media and Republican opponents, enabling and perpetuating my husband's abuse."

Hill said she had filed a complaint with US Capitol Police about the photo leak, as laws in Washington forbid the publication of intimate pictures without the subject's consent.

The 32-year-old lawmaker, who is openly bisexual, said she did not want her experience to "scare off other young women or girls from running for office."

But Hill, who was elected in November 2018 in a former Republican stronghold, also said she did not want the controversy to distract from the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

"I cannot let this horrible smear campaign get in the way of that work," she said in the video posted on Facebook.

- 'Errors in judgment' -


Hill's relationship with her husband and a female campaign staffer would not fall under House ethics rules, as it occurred before she took office.

But the House Committee on Ethics announced Wednesday that it was investigating allegations that she "may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff" since arriving in Washington.

The rules forbidding sexual relationships with staff members were adopted as the #MeToo movement gathered pace.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying the freshman congresswoman had "acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable."

But some say Hill should not have resigned, and that the bigger issues are the possible use of the photos as revenge porn, and undue scrutiny of Hill's open bisexuality.

"Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?" Republican congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted.

"Katie isn't being investigated by Ethics or maligned because she hurt anyone -- it is because she is different."