Photo Scandal Was Only Part of Katie Hill's Awful Year

A few months after resigning from Congress, she found her brother dead of an overdose
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2020 8:41 AM CDT
Updated Aug 15, 2020 11:10 AM CDT
After Scandal, Katie Hill Is Taking Back Her Story
In this April 3, 2019, file photo, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., talks on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

If the name Katie Hill rings a bell, it's probably not for a reason she's happy about. She made headlines in 2018 as an openly bisexual woman who won a seat in Congress at age 31. But she made bigger headlines by resigning that seat in October after nude photos of her surfaced with a female staffer from her campaign. Less than a year later, Hill is publicly wrestling with the scandal, and more, in a new memoir and a new podcast. Coverage:

  • Interview: The most in-depth piece on all of this is a New York Times interview by Jessica Bennett in which Hill talks about, among other things, reconciling with the fact that the nude photos are still out there and probably always will be. People still taunt her with them online. “And they’re not even good photos! Like, that’s what I keep going back to. I’m like, 'God.'" The tone there may be jokey, but Hill also discusses her despair after the controversy and a flirtation with suicide.

  • The book: The memoir She Will Rise is out Tuesday, and Hill also has a podcast called Naked Politics. LA Magazine has a book excerpt, including a passage in which she attempts to sum up her scandal: "What happened here is so complex, with so many layers," she writes. "I was exploited online by my abusive ex-husband and the right-wing media in a coordinated attack. I was a victim. But I also made serious mistakes that I will always regret. Worst of all, I had a relationship with a campaign staffer. I understand power dynamics; I know that having a relationship with someone on my staff is inappropriate."
  • Her brother: Hill resigned in October. In January, she went home to California because her mother needed brain surgery. While her mother was recuperating in the hospital, Hill found her 20-year-old brother, a Navy sailor, dead of an overdose of cocaine and fentanyl. Hill, who was by herself, did CPR and called 911. “The time of death that they ended up giving was 20 minutes before I found him," she tells the Times as she begins to cry. “I have not even come close to dealing with the guilt I have around that.”
  • Her ex: Refinery29 recaps the scandal. Hill blames her ex-husband for leaking the nude photos out of revenge because she left him, while he insists his computer was hacked. Expect the story to play out publicly in coming litigation. The House was conducting an ethics investigation, though Hill denies the part that would have been in violation of rules—that she was in a relationship with a male staffer while she was a congresswoman. (The affair with the woman took place before she was elected.)
  • Her goal: Hill is now living alone, for the first time, in DC, with a new mission to help young women and women of color get elected, and to conquer what she views as a double standard about how male and female politicians are treated. “The bottom line is that we need to elect more women, up and down the ballot," she said on NBC's Morning Joe. "For us to achieve true change, that’s going to be what it takes.”
(Read more Katie Hill stories.)

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