Accuracy in Media

Over the weekend, California Democrat and freshman Rep. Katie Hill announced she will resign from Congress, with Politico reporting she could resign as soon as November 1.

For the past several weeks, Hill was embroiled in a complex scandal, which involved the publishing of intimate private photos online, allegations of infidelity and accusations she abused her power and authority.

Hill issued a statement announcing her resignation, which began, “It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress.” She added, “This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation.”

The conservative website RedState claimed several weeks ago that Hill was cheating on her spouse, husband Kenny Heslep, with her legislative director Graham Kelly. However, other allegations emerged that Hill was also intimately involved with a female congressional campaign staffer. Intimate photos of the couple were published online, adding more pressure and speculation to the rumors. Hill is openly bisexual.

Last week, Hill admitted she had an affair with the female campaign staffer, but not with her legislative director. She blamed her “abusive” estranged husband, with whom she is undergoing divorce proceedings. She referred the case to the U.S. Capitol Police to determine who released the photos to the media, which is a tactic known as “revenge porn.” Politico described “revenge porn” as “a criminal act in more than 45 states and the District of Columbia” and that it is the unlawful distribution of photos and images without one’s consent.

The media covered the initial allegations and Hill’s resignation, although it was a mixed bag due to the complex nature of the scandal. Although the scandal highlighted issues relevant to the #MeToo movement, some outlets did not refer to the #MeToo implications. Among mainstream media outlets, Politico and National Public Radio covered the #MeToo implications of the scandal and how it could affect Congress and the work environment there. On the other hand, NBC News and USA Today made no mention of how this scandal is related to the #MeToo movement.

As background, 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.

Part of the scandal involved Hill’s alleged abuse of power, such as exercising authority over a subordinate after engaging in an intimate relationship with the subordinate. This scandal was the first time that Congress would have to handle a #MeToo scandal with a female lawmaker at the middle of it. Now that Hill announced her resignation, the ethics probe into her alleged conduct will most likely end and the truth may never be discovered.

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