Freshman Representative Katie Hill from California’s 25th district became the subject of investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a male congressional staffer in mid-October 2019. Representative Hill adamantly denied the sexual relationship with the male staff member, though she did admit to having an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staff member earlier in her run for Congress in 2018. She claimed the relationship with the female staffer was a result of an abusive husband whom she was divorcing. Hill said she endured many years of abuse from her husband and, despite her better judgement, allowed a consensual relationship with a female subordinate to occur. During this time, nude photos of Hill with the female staffer were released which created additional publicity and embarrassment. She pursued legal options to remove the photos, while continuing to blame her husband and right-wing media. Representative Hill did have support from colleagues, who defended her by suggesting leaked photos were nothing more than”revenge porn” and political smear tactics. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the photo’s “shameful” and said what happened to Hill should be regarded as a “cautionary tale.” However, Hill decided to step down, in part, to stop additional harmful and embarrassing reports from becoming public information. She gave her last speech to an almost empty chamber the same day the House approved a resolution to move forward the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Key Apologia Strategies:
Bolstering, Mortification, Shifting Blame
“This is the last speech that I will give from this floor as a member of Congress. I wasn’t ready for my time here to come to an end so soon. It’s a reality I’m still grappling with and I will be for a long time to come.
I expected or at least hope to be here for as long as the voters of California’s 25th district deemed me worthy of the honor of representing them. I thought I could make a difference here, in making our community, our great country, and the world a better place for generations to come.
I, like so many of my colleagues ran for office because I believed that our political system was broken, controlled by the powerful and the wealthy, ignoring and failing the regular people that it’s supposed to serve.
I came here to give a voice to the unheard in the halls of power. I wanted to show young people, queer people, working people, imperfect people, that they belong here because this is the people’s house. I fell short of that and I’m sorry.
To every young person who saw themselves and their dreams reflected in me, I’m sorry. To those who felt like I gave them hope in one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, I’m sorry. To my family, my friends, my staff, my colleagues, my mentors, to everyone who has supported and believed in me, I’m sorry.
To the thousands of people who spent hours knocking doors in the hot summer sun, who made countless phone calls, who sacrificed more than I could ever know, to give everything they could in every possible way so that I could be here, I am so, so sorry. And to every little girl who looked up to me, I hope that one day you can forgive me.
The mistakes I made and the people I’ve hurt that led to this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life and I have to come to terms with that. Ever since those images first came out, I barely left my bed. I’ve ignored all the calls in the text and went to the darkest places that a mind can go and I’ve shed more tears than I thought were possible.
I’ve hidden from the world because I’m terrified of facing the people that I let down. But I made it through because the people who love me most dragged me back into the light and reminded me that I was stronger than that.
To those of you who were by my side in my worst moments you know who you are I love you, I’m so grateful and I will never forget.
And I’m here today because so many of the people I let down, people close to me, supporters, colleagues, people I’ve never even met, told me to stand back up and that despite all of my faults they still believed in me and they were still counting on me. And I realized that hiding away and disappearing would be the one unforgivable sin. I will never shirk my responsibility for this sudden ending to my time here, but I have to say more because this is bigger than me.
I am leaving now because of a double standard. I’m leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites, used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen and the right-wing media to drive cliques and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me, taken without my knowledge let alone my consent for the sexual entertainment of millions.
I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.
I am leaving because of the thousands of vile threatening emails calls and texts that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people that I care about. Today is the first time I’ve left my apartment since the photos taken without my consent were released and I’m scared.
I’m leaving because for the sake of my community, my staff, my family, and myself, I can’t allow this to continue. Because I’ve been told that people were angry when I stood strong after the first article was and that they had hundreds more photos and text messages that they would release bit by bit, until they broke me down to nothing while they used my faults and my past to distract from the things that matter most.
I’m leaving because there is only one investigation that deserves the attention of this country and that’s the one that we voted on today. Today I ask you all to stand with me and commit to creating a future where this no longer happens to women and girls.
Yes, I’m stepping down, but I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful. It might feel like they won in the short term but they can’t in the long term. We cannot let them.
The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders. Because the more we show up, the less power they have.
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 to create the change that every woman and girl in this country deserves.
Here in the halls of Congress the fight will go on without me and I trust so many of my colleagues to be strong on this front while I move on to one of the many other battlefields. Because we have an entire culture that has to change and we see it in stark clarity today.
The forces of revenge by a bitter jealous man, cyber exploitation and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here.
Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who’s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental rights to control their own bodies, sit in the highest office of the land.
And so today as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings, not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice or gross misconduct, but because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over women.
Today as my final act I voted to move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.
We will not stand down we will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will rise and we will they make tomorrow better than today.
Thank you and I yield the balance of my time for now but not forever.”
Bresnahan, J. (2019, October 23). Rep. Katie Hill investigated over allegations of improper relationship with staffer. Politico. Retrieved from: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/23/ethics-committee-launches-investigation-into-rep-katie-hill-000295
Caygle, H., Breshnahan, J., & Cheney, K. (2019, October 27). Rep. Katie Hill to resign amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with staffers. Politico. Retrieved from: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/27/rep-katie-hill-to-resign-amid-allegations-of-inappropriate-relationships-with-staffers-000301
CNN. (2019, October 31). READ: Rep. Katie Hill’s full remarks in her farewell speech fromthe floor of the US House of Representatives. CNN Politics. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/31/politics/katie-hill-farewell-speech-full-text
Dzhanova, Y. (2019, October 31). Rep. Katie Hill says she’s quiting the House ‘because of a double standard’ for women. CNBC. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/31/katie-hill-says-shes-leaving-because-of-a-double-standard-for-women.html
Press, A. (2019, October 31). Katie Hill blames scandal, resignation on ‘double standard”. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-katie-hill-blames-scandal-resignation-on-double-standard
Santucci, J. (2019, October 31). California Rep. Katie Hill gives final speech in Congress: ‘I’m leaving now because of a double standard’. USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/31/katie-hill-apologizes-house-speech-double-standard/4111439002/