Katie Hill and the Double Standards in Politics

By Antonio Caceres, Staff Writer

Katie Hill’s name has been added to the long list of former members of Congress whose work will surely be forgotten. Her future as a possible governor, senator, or speaker of the house has been snuffed out by a relentless smear campaign that resulted in her resignation on November 3rd, 2019. Hill’s rise, and eventual fall, in politics were unique to her identity and generation: a star millennial politician who became engulfed in a quintessentially millennial scandal. The former Congresswoman’s short-lived career provides one of the most glaring examples of hypocrisy in the American political system. 

I have a unique perspective in regards to this story. I was an intern for Ms. Hill in the final month of her tenure and worked with her staff which still occupies the Palmdale Office of California’s 25th Congressional District. I, like many of her constituents, believed in her mission of bringing change to Washington DC and jobs to the community.

This scandal began with collusion between Ms. Hill’s ex-husband and former GOP operatives for Representative Steve Knight, who was defeated by Hill and is now seeking re-election to his former seat, to release explicit images on a fringe website. The images were of Hill and a campaign staffer, both nude. Text messages were also leaked that implied that she had been engaged in another sexual relationship, however, with a member of her Congressional staff. Nothing in regards to the revenge porn is illegal. There is no law against relationships with members of a campaign team. Instead, it is a severe lapse of judgement and a terrible mistake. There is also nothing illegal about having relations with a member of one’s official staff. Rather, it is a violation of House Ethics Rules and these allegations, rightly, prompted an investigation into the matter.  

The public reaction was swift and fierce by those on the right. A coordinated movement ensued to pressure Hill’s resignation. These calls were answered when Katie Hill cast her final vote on the House floor to formalize the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In her farewell address to the chamber she stated that, “I am leaving, but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body and worst of all, in the Oval Office.” 

Katie Hill is right. 

The standards held to her are the complete opposite from those applied to other members of the political sphere. As a Democrat and as a woman, she faced dramatically different circumstances from those around and above her. 

Democrats, simply put, are not allowed to be engaged in the same improper conduct Republicans are. The tale of Minnesota Senator Al Franken perfectly exemplified this parity. Franken was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman who claimed that he made her feel uncomfortable and forcibly kissed her while on a USO comedy tour years before his entry to the Senate. With no ethics investigation or any other form of due process, he resigned. 

Meanwhile, Republicans shamelessly supported the Senate candidacy of Alabama Judge Roy Moore who had been accused of having relationships with underage girls while he was well into adulthood. Moore lost his subsequent election to Democrat Doug Jones. The GOP also fiercely shoved the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an alleged attempted rapist, through the Senate. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court with the smallest margin of votes in the span of American history.

In all fairness, these codes of conduct were not created by Republicans for them to exploit. Rather, these are largely self-imposed Democratic standards. Liberal firebrands have come to expect purity from the leaders of their party. It was Democratic Senators, starting with Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who called for Al Franken’s resignation. Some even believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressured Katie Hill to resign in order to set an example. 

However, a greater disadvantage in this scandal than party allegiance was Katie Hill’s gender. The rules of politics have never applied to women in the same way they have applied to men. Men, for years, have gotten away with scores of sins that their female counterparts could never even imagine committing. In fact, the House Ethics Rules allegedly violated by Ms. Hill, which bars relationships between members of Congress and their staff, were not created until 2017, after the start of the #MeToo movement.  

Donald Trump, on the campaign trail, was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and even rape. The eventual President of the United States bragged about his abuse in a tape released in late 2016. He boasted, “You can do anything… Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” While any female presidential candidate would be damaged by this scandal, Mr. Trump paid no price. In fact, Hillary Rodham Clinton was negatively affected not by any sexual misconduct of her own but through the actions of her husband. 

It’s unfair to claim that only the Republican party has been rocked by serious allegations of sexual violence. President Bill Clinton was a notorious womanizer. His sexual proclivities lead to his own impeachment and subsequent acquittal in 1998. However, more troubling rumblings have continued to follow Mr. Clinton including his own accusations of harassment and rape. Nonetheless, he’s still lauded by members of his party as the first Democrat to be elected to a second full term since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Clinton’s history was conveniently overlooked in order to benefit the candidacies of his Vice President and First Lady.  

The rules are not fair. And, sadly, it doesn’t appear that the harsh realities of double standards in public service will change anytime soon. It seems as if resignation was Katie Hill’s only choice. Either that or have an albatross that hung around her neck that would be brought up, unfairly, for the rest of her life. Resignation was a way for her to depart on her own terms. A way for Hill to define her legacy at a moment were the narrative was being controlled by conservative extortionists. 

Ms Hill, however, is not alone in choosing the moral decision to resign. When President Clinton was facing impeachment by Congress after he committed perjury to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky, an unexpected event occurred. At the time, Republicans had lost faith in Speaker Newt Gengrich. The man who appeared ready to replace him, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, had recently revealed that he too had had extramarital affairs. He called on Clinton to resign for his improprieties, and in order to stay true to his word, announced his own resignation for his same lack of character. Katie Hill’s resignation didn’t pressure Donald Trump to follow suit in any way. What she has instead done is solidify a new standard for the Democratic Party first proposed by First Lady Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”