Accuracy in Media

Rep. Katie Hill, a Democratic freshman congresswoman representing a swing district north of Los Angeles, California, is facing allegations of an affair with a campaign staffer. Hill allegedly had an affair with a female staffer, while Hill remained married to her husband, Kenny Heslep. After almost two weeks of the rumor circulating, Hill confirmed this week that she did have an affair with a former campaign staffer.

Hill said in a letter to constituents, “During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign. I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment. For that, I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.”

Intimate photos of the couple were published on RedState, in which Hill was nude in those photos, and an investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police is underway to determine who released the photos to the media, which is known by the nickname “revenge porn.”

Politico wrote that “revenge porn” is “a criminal act in more than 45 states and the District of Columbia” and involves the unlawful distribution of photos and images without one’s consent, which is what Hill told the public, the press, and the U.S. Capitol Police.

Hill blamed Heslep for the photos in the letter, “I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and the people close to me is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”

Allegations also surfaced that she had another extramarital affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, which Hill denied.

The scandal also highlighted potential issues related to the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement is an anti-sexual harassment movement that led to multiple scandals, such as male lawmakers resigning after past allegations came to light or male celebrities fading from public view due to sexual harassment and rape allegations linked to them.

As Politico noted there are #MeToo implications in this complex case:

“Yet the Hill case may prove a test for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the House Democratic Caucus. Pelosi and other Democrats took a hard line in sexual-harassment cases that emerged out of the #MeToo movement during the last several years, and a number of male lawmakers from both parties were forced to resign under pressure.”

“This is the first time such allegations have emerged involving a female lawmaker, and Democrats will be under scrutiny as to whether they can apply to same standards to a woman as a man.”

As far as media coverage goes, only Politico mentioned the #MeToo implications of the scandal, with CNN, Vox, NBC News and CBS News avoiding mention of #MeToo and possible abuse of authority on the part of Hill with the female campaign staffer. Although the case is complex and sensitive, the mainstream media should have addressed the #MeToo implications as it is the first case involving a female lawmaker to give the audience a complete picture of the issues at hand.

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