UPDATE: Rep. Katie Hill released a video message speaking out about her resignation, stating that she will continue to fight. Hill says the release of the photos was a “coordinated attack” by right-wing media outlets and her estranged husband.
“I will not allow my experience scare off other young women or girls from running for office,” Hill said. “For the sake of all of us, we must not let that happen.”
U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, a California Democrat, has resigned her seat in Congress following revenge-porn allegations and public revelations of an inappropriate relationship with a female campaign staffer.
“It is with a broken heart today that I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill wrote in an official resignation letter Sunday. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”
Hill was the only openly bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The freshman representative resigned amid a sex scandal that began with the leak of nude photos and allegations of a consensual relationship with the female campaign staffer and of an affair with a male member of her congressional staff, Graham Kelly.
Both allegations were initially made in a post on the conservative blog Red State, which also posted a nude picture of Hill with the female staffer’s face blurred. The Daily Mail later revealed more photos and the name and face of the campaign staffer.
The allegations of a relationship with a member of her House staff, which Hill has denied, prompted an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
Hill has acknowledged the relationship with the campaign worker. She did not address accusations made in Red State that Hill, her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, and the campaign worker were part of a “throuple.”
“In the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign,” Hill said in a statement last week.
She acknowledged bad judgment in her resignation letter.
“For the mistakes made along the way and the people who have been hurt, I am so sorry, and I am learning,” she wrote. “I am not a perfect person and never pretended to be. It’s one of the things that made my race so special. I hope it showed others that they do belong, that their voice does matter, and that they do have a place in this country.”
She also took a swipe at Heslep, whom she is in the process of divorcing, and media allowing him to smear her reputation, implying he is the ultimate source of leaked information.
“This [resigning] 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 hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill wrote.
“Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy. It’s also illegal, and we are currently pursuing all of our available legal options. However, I know that as long as I am in Congress, we’ll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt.”
Hill has sent cease-and-desist letters to outlets publishing her private photos and notified Capitol Police.
Beyond the revenge-porn allegations, new congressional rules that prohibit relationships with subordinates passed in early 2018 in response to the growing #MeToo movement, and Hill is the first member of Congress to resign after their arrival.
Hill in November defeated Republican Rep. Steve Knight to flip the seat. After turning the last GOP-held seat in Los Angeles County Democratic, Hill was seen as a rising star in the party. She served as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee.
A special election will be held to fill her seat.