Why So Many People Think Katie Hill Shouldn’t Have Resigned

Photo: Robin L Marshall/Getty Images.
When US Republican Duncan Hunter was elected to office in 2008, he took an oath — the same oath as congresswoman Katie Hill, who announced her resignation on Sunday. Both California representatives were the subject of scandal this past year, and both faced ethics investigations over alleged relationships with congressional aides. But there are some inescapable differences between Hunter and Hill: Hunter faces charges on 60 counts for allegedly spending $250,000 (£194,475.00) of congressional funds. According to prosecutors, the money went towards things like flying his family’s pet rabbit across the country and five extramarital affairs, including with members of his own staff. Meanwhile, Hill just spent several days in the media spotlight for an alleged relationship with a campaign aide before taking office.
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Hunter went relatively unscathed as news of his affairs were released, even vowing that a scandal like this won’t get him unseated. He didn’t apologise after his wife pleaded guilty to most of the charges, either. Hill on the other hand was the subject of a media onslaught after RedState and The Daily Mail released nude and intimate photos of her. She apologised for the relationship, which she said was consensual and occurred before she took office. But an ethics probe against her, which began almost immediately and has yet to prove any other allegations against her, prompted a right-wing outcry for her resignation.
The two scandals are entirely different for many reasons — and while Hunter faces a drawn out and once again pushed-back trial date in 2020, Hill’s ethics probe barely even took off before her resignation on Sunday. Hunter used congressional funds for personal gain and engaged in multiple alleged affairs within the House, while Hill’s relationship, albeit with a subordinate who worked on her campaign, occurred before she entered office and was perpetuated by the release of nude images, without her consent, by an allegedly abusive ex-husband. The news of her resignation and the case against her is now spurring a larger and more powerful question: Is Katie Hill’s resignation the result of a major political double standard?
Rep. Hunter remains in office, and plans to until his trial date. In doing so, he joins the ranks of dozens of men who have faced serious allegations and sexual misconduct charges but remain in office: Tennessee Rep. David Byrd, accused of sexual assault by at least three girls; Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s Lt. Governor who was accused of rape by two women; New York Rep. Steve McLaughlin who asked an Assembly staffer for naked photos before leaking her name to the press.
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This isn’t to say that the defenders of Rep. Hill weren’t strong and steadfast — many called the photos that launched her downfall a case of “revenge porn,” which she now plans to pursue more formally.
“My fight is going to be to defeat this type of exploitation that so many women are victims to and which will keep countless women and girls from running for office,” she said in her resignation statement on Sunday.
And while Hill admitted to an ethically questionable relationship with a campaign aide, other allegations against her so far are just conjecture and not backed by any tangible evidence. Despite that, her departure from office came swiftly after the official investigation into her was announced less than a week ago. Many allegations against Hill can be traced back to statements made by her soon-to-be ex-husband to RedState, the same site that posted nude photos of her. Yet, her resignation seemed to be more or less supported by other members of Congress.
“She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said following Hill’s resignation. “We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”
Whether or not allegations against Hill stand up, or her husband’s abusive behaviour is true, this comes down to a woman’s place in office, and how she may have been forced out of it for reasons that generations of men haven’t been. And ultimately, Hill’s privacy was invaded, her unconventional relationship was a subject of media fodder, and she was the victim of yet another series of nude photos leaked on the internet, which isn’t a novelty going into 2020. But are these counts against her really enough to warrant a resignation?
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