WASHINGTON — Voice steady and dressed head to toe in red, freshman Rep. Katie Hill took to the House floor to deliver her last speech, with a message for Republicans: Stop enabling accused sexual predators.
“I am leaving now because of a double standard,” said the 32-year-old congresswoman, who just weeks ago was one of the most prominent members of the freshman class. She is now leaving office amid a sex scandal that has touched her campaign staff, Congressional office, and family.
“I'm leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip,” Hill said. “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. So the fight goes on.”
Hill resigned last Sunday, after conservative media outlets published a series of graphic and intimate images of her, and in the wake of revelations that she had a sexual relationship with a campaign aide.
And her final speech on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Hill said, was the first time she’s left her apartment since those images were published.
“I’m scared,” Hill said. “[I] went to the darkest places that a mind can go.”
It was a dramatic conclusion to Hill’s 10 months in office.
As vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, Hill had a rare appointment atop a powerful group, one that is helping lead the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Perhaps even unlikelier, Hill won her seat in a traditionally Republican district in Southern California after running one of the most expensive House races in history.
But by mid-October, things began to unravel. Allegedly at the hands of her estranged husband and a group of Republican operatives, nude photos of Hill appeared on a string of conservative websites, along with revelations that Hill had had a relationship with one of her campaign aides.
And last week, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into separate allegations that Hill had a sexual relationship with her legislative director –– a claim Hill denies, and would violate House rules if proven true.
It’s unclear what, exactly, Hill will do after she formally vacates her seat on Friday.
But in a video she published on her Twitter account this week, Hill alluded to plans to launch a campaign fighting against revenge porn.
“I will also take up a new fight: I will fight to ensure that no one else has to live through what I just experienced,” she said.
“Some people call this electronic assault, digital exploitation. Others call it revenge porn. As a victim of it, I call it one of the worst things we can do to our sisters and our daughters,” Hill continued.
Lawyers representing Hill have suggested that publication of those photos have violated revenge porn laws in California, where it is illegal to disseminate sexual images without the subject’s consent.
Steve Knight, the two-term congressman from Hill’s district who she defeated in 2018, is reportedly considering another run for the seat. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Knight’s former campaign manager wrote two of the articles that included nude photos of Hill.
If Knight decides to run, he’d join a crowded field. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump aide who served almost two weeks in prison for making false statements to the FBI, announced this week he would run as a Republican. So did Christy Smith, a California lawmaker and Democrat who’s a friend of Hill’s.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has two weeks to call a special election after Hill vacates her seat.
“A man who brags about his sexual predation, who's had dozens of women come forward to accuse them of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women” sits in the White House, Hill said at the conclusion of her speech. “We have an entire culture that has to change.”
Cover: Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., arrives to the Capitol for the House vote on an impeachment inquiry resolution on Thursday, October 31, 2019. This was Hills last series of votes before her resignation, for having an improper relationship with an aide, becomes effective. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)