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Katie Hill says right-wing media is “enabling and perpetuating” her husband's abuse

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Anna Brech
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Former congresswoman Katie Hill

She’s been humiliated by nude photos and opponents intent on destroying her reputation – but former congresswoman Katie Hill has vowed to come out fighting, in a defiant new video message about revenge porn. 

Former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill has accused the right-wing media and Republican opponents of exacerbating the alleged abuse of her husband via a “horrible smear campaign”.

In an explosive video message posted hours after Hill announced her resignation from Congress, the Californian politician called out the “brutality” of “hateful right-wing operatives” in orchestrating her downfall. 

Hill stepped down yesterday, after a string of damaging stories regarding her allegedly improper relationships with staffers were published by the far-right blog Red State and The Daily Mail. The claims were accompanied by nude photos of the congresswoman, published without her consent, which were quickly picked by the Representative’s political rivals on Twitter.

In her resignation letter, Hill accused her estranged husband Kenny Heslep of playing a pivotal role in the events of recent weeks. She said private photos were “weaponised” against her, as her political opponents worked to exploit the fact that she is divorcing “an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me”. 

Hill has apologised for a consensual sexual relationship she and her husband had with a unnamed female aide in 2018,  before she was elected to Congress. But she denies another media claim that she had an affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, while in office: an allegation that prompted an investigation by the House of Representatives Ethics Committee.

In her latest filmed address, the former congresswoman appears shaken yet also defiant in the face of the turmoil she’s faced. 

“I’m hurt, I’m angry,” she tells the nation. “I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered what the past three years of my life were for […] I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but I never thought my imperfections would be used to weaponised and use to try and destroy me and the community I’ve loved my entire life.”

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Vowing “my fight is not over”, Hill – a passionate campaigner for homelessness and equality – pledged to add a new cause to her roster: revenge porn.

“I will fight to ensure that no one else has to live through what I just experienced,” Hill says. “Some people call this electronic assault, digital exploitation, others call it revenge porn. As the victim of it, I call it one of the worst things we can do to our sister and our daughters.

“As I have before, I will stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves because there is one thing that I know for sure: I will not allow my experience to scare off other young women or girls from running for office.”

Although Hill and her husband’s relationship with an aide took place before she was in office, and therefore is not in violation of House rules regarding personal relationships, salacious media coverage meant her position in Congress became untenable.

Hill has already begun legal action against the news sites that distributed nude photos of her, and yesterday appeared to imply that her career in politics was not over.

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“Those of you who know me know that I am a fighter,” she says.

“Before I came to Congress, I fought for the most vulnerable people in our community, working to end homelessness for individuals, veterans and families. I fought to give a voice for those who have too long been silenced or pushed into the shadows. 

“I’m going to continue to fight for our democracy, for representation, for justice and equality and for making the world a better place.”

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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