Column: A year after resigning from Congress in a sex scandal, Katie Hill is back in the spotlight. Is anyone surprised?
Katie Hill in September 2018, two months before she was elected to Congress. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
To no surprise, Katie Hill is back.
The once promising Santa Clarita Democratic Congresswoman, who dyed a red neighborhood blue in 2018 but resigned a year later after nude pictures of herself and a female election worker leaked to the media, never said she would quietly slip into darkness.
But on the contrary. At the end of her farewell speech on the floor of the house last October, she specifically said that she would give the rest of her speaking time "for now, but not forever".
And she wasn't kidding. She published a memoir ten months later. Then this week it was announced that she had sold the memoirs to the films and that Elis
Abeth Moss would play the lead role. Oh, and there's a podcast, "Naked Politics with Katie Hill."
It's old American history. Get in trouble, pour it into more money and more fame. Nice job Katie!
And why shouldn't she? She has her side of the story to tell, to rebuild a reputation, to live a life. She is only 33 years old. And no doubt a lot of people are interested. After all, this isn't just the news that popularized the word "throuple". It's also a high level political drama.
If you're curious what Hill has to say, just read the title of her book: "She Will Be Resurrected: She Will Be a Warrior in the Fight for True Equality." Before leaving Congress, she complained about "gutter politics" and "double standards". She said she was a victim of sexual shame, cyber exploitation and misogyny. In the memoir, she also accuses her ex-husband, who she believes was abusive and whom she believes leaked the photos. (In one case she is naked holding a bong. In another case she is naked while she is brushing her polling agent's hair.)
While regretting her mistakes - including an "inappropriate" relationship with an employee - she also says the relationship has become "gray" because it was consensual. She calls herself a victim.
However, your version is only your version. Not everyone agrees. For example, on Tuesday, their old Twitter account was taken over by someone or people who identified themselves as their former employees. When they said they were disappointed with Elisabeth Moss and the film's producers, they reminded the world that Katie Hill's story was also about "abuse and harassment in the workplace." They said she did "immense damage" to those who worked for them.
What is the truth? Does your relationship with the campaign employee fall into a "gray area" because she was consensual?
Or was it completely inappropriate because of the gross power imbalance between a boss and a subordinate?
Is it fair for Hill to call himself a victim? After all, her intimate photos were leaked and her career was derailed by “right-wing activists” in an argument with her then estranged husband, whom she describes as controlling and threatening.
And wasn't she also the victim of a voyeuristic, misogynistic, click-crazy media culture that, among other things, would have played the whole story very differently if she had been a man?
Aren't the employees victims? And the voters too? Including the many die-hard supporters who spent long hours advertising door-to-door only to go back to work a year later. The seat is now held by a Republican again (although on Election Day it is given at a time when every seat in the House counts).
Katie Hill's story was morally complicated from the start. It was never absolutely clear who the victims and who the bad guys were.
My attitude is pretty simple.
People, including civil servants, can engage in consensual, non-harmful behavior that they want - and document it on camera if they wish.
But - and this should be pretty obvious by now - people shouldn't have sexual relationships with people they have power over, especially if they have the power to set, fire, or fix their lovers' salaries. There is an inherent coercive risk involved.
These conclusions are pretty basic, and I hope they aren't too controversial.
But even in the world of sexual misconduct there are gray areas and degrees of misconduct. Al Franken is not Harvey Weinstein.
I was moved last October when Hill said in her farewell speeches that she came to Washington to show that young people, queer people, working people and what she called "imperfect people" have a voice in Congress could.
With a little luck, when the film is made, she will not be portrayed as a brave heroine or warrior for equality, nor as a villain - but as an imperfect person trying to fight her way through a complicated world like the rest of the world. I have sympathy for that.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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