On Sunday, the current occupant of the Oval Office was loudly booed while attending game five of the World Series in Washington, DC. By Monday, the beltway pundits were up in arms over Americans who spontaneously chanted “Lock him up” during the ballgame. The old civility argument was dragged out once again to shame Democrats for disrespecting the office of the president. Really, Joe? Really, Chris?
Completely ignored was the damage that this man has done to the office, using it as his personal ATM and weapon of petty political revenge, that currently makes respect for the office of the president an incredible stretch. Apparently, what was far more important to the pundit class was that a bunch of baseball fans correctly called out the lawlessness of Donald Trump. The lawlessness that the media has meekly tiptoed around for the past three years.
On the same day that Trump was called out for having no clothes, Congresswoman Katie Hill of California announced her resignation from Congress. I am still waiting for one of those pearl-clutching pundits to condemn RedState for publishing intimate photos of the representative without her consent. Where is their anger at this flagrant violation of civil behavior?
Why are they not calling it out with the same vituperation that they dished out to Americans at a ballgame? I think there are a couple of reasons. One is that she is a Democrat and the other is that she is a woman.
We know that Democrats are held to a higher standard in the realm of ethics and sexual conduct. A photograph of a fully clothed Al Franken led to his resignation during the height of the MeToo movement. Earlier, Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat after images he sent to women from his cell phone were publicized. Recently, Joe Biden has been demonized for excessive hugging of women. And of course, Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex during a deposition for a lawsuit that was thrown out of court.
But then, why is Duncan Hunter still sitting in Congress?
Rep. Duncan Hunter began living with a woman other than his wife early in his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, prosecutors say in a court filing that outlines a series of personal intimate relationships he allegedly began with three lobbyists and two congressional staffers during his elected service.
One of the women Hunter is alleged to have taken up with was on his own staff; another worked in the office of a member of the House of Representatives leadership, new court records state.
In a sweeping series of court filings this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego accuses the six-term Republican from East County of engaging in a litany of extramarital affairs and paying for some of them with campaign funds while serving in Congress.
And why is Jim Jordan still buzzing around the cameras after failing to be held accountable for his actions, or lack thereof, while a coach at Ohio State? Why did the GOP support David Vitter, who served as Louisiana’s senator for ten years after admitting to hiring prostitutes? (And for that matter, why did the Senate confirm Vitter’s wife to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana?)
And why is the sexual assaulter in chief allowed to occupy the office that pundits demand we respect? This, in spite of the steadily growing accusations of sexual improprieties? Is it possible that we have simply become so inured to the despicable behavior of the leading members of the Republican Party that we no longer notice it?
I take pride in the fact that my party has zero tolerance for any form of sexual assault. That it was the Democratically controlled House of Representatives that moved against sexual harassers in adopting Rule 18 of the House Ethics Manual earlier this year.
18. (a) A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves. This paragraph does not apply with respect to any relationship between two people who are married to each other.
(b) A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House may not engage in unwelcome sexual advances or conduct towards another Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House.
(c) In this clause, the term ‘employee’ includes an applicant for employment, a paid or unpaid intern (including an applicant for an internship), a detailee, and an individual participating in a fellowship program.
Rule 18 provides House employees with the same level of protection that is offered by most private employers and should have been introduced and adopted many years ago. Katie Hill was being investigated for violating this rule following an accusation that she was having, or did have, an affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly. She has denied this accusation.
It does not appear that Rule 18 would apply to the affair that Katie Hill has admitted to having with her campaign aide. She has apologized for that affair, as she should have, because even though there was no congressional dictate, her superior position in the relationship meant that it was inappropriate.
“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” she said in a statement. “For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.”
As a woman, she should have known better. I say “as a woman,” because we are so often the victims in unbalanced power relationships. We know how hard it is (or was) to say “No” to the boss. She was wrong to engage in the relationship, she apologized for it and could have remained in Congress pending the outcome of the Ethics Committee investigation.
But she is a woman.
Nonconsensual pornography is frequently a form of domestic violence, as abusers threaten to expose intimate pictures to prevent a partner from exiting a relationship, reporting abuse, or obtaining custody of children. It is also a tool of sex traffickers, who use compromising images to trap unwilling individuals in the sex trade, as well as rapists who record images of sexual assaults to further humiliate victims and to discourage them from reporting the crime.
While nonconsensual pornography affects both male and female individuals, evidence to date indicates that the majority of victims are female, and that female victims often face more serious consequences as a result of victimization. Nonconsensual pornography – like domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment – thus disproportionately harms women and girls and undermines gender equality.
Unsurprisingly, Katie Hill is in the middle of what appears to be an acrimonious divorce from her husband who is likely the one who allowed RedState to publish intimate photos of Ms. Hill. The Daily Mail in the UK picked up the story and ran even more photos as well as an account of the relationship of Katie Hill, her husband, and the campaign worker. Kamala Harris, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, points out what she feels is behind the use of photos such as these:
“It was clearly meant to embarrass her,” Harris told BuzzFeed News of the photos. “There’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.”
Cyber exploitation, or the nonconsensual release of intimate photos, is an issue close to Harris. When she was California’s attorney general, she was the first to criminally prosecute the operator of a cyber exploitation website, which allowed thousands of intimate photos to be put online without the subjects’ consent, and she worked with tech companies to find ways to curb the practice.
I don’t recall any intimate photos of Al Franken or Bill Clinton. Not that I would have been particularly interested in viewing then had they existed. But they aren’t women. Men are treated by our media as politicians first, and sexual beings second, if at all. But a representative like Katie Hill is being treated as a sexual object instead of a politician accused of a sexual affront. Not a single picture has anything to do with the ethics investigation that is looking into her relationship with Graham Kelley. They all involve her private behavior with a different individual.
Short of rape, it is hard for me to imagine a greater violation of a woman than the publication of such images. These photos were clearly taken for the private viewing of the participants, and were never meant for the public. That they were used as a weapon against Katie Hill makes one wonder what she had done to merit such treatment.
Well, she is a woman. And women must be kept in their place. It must be made clear to us over and over again that we follow a dangerous path when we choose to lead. And Katie Hill is a leader. Selected by her fellow freshmen to serve as one of their representatives to the Democratic Caucus, she was appointed by Elijah Cummings to be the vice chairman of the powerful Committee on Oversight and Reform. She ran on a platform that included getting money out of politics and accepted no PAC money during her congressional race. From an LA Magazine profile:
From the time the then-30-year-old announced her candidacy, the media clamored to cover Hill and her staff, otherwise known as the “most millennial campaign ever” (her words, from a four-part Vice News documentary). But the fixation on her age didn’t bother Hill, who stood out for a variety of reasons, including that she’s a political first-timer, she ran a completely grassroots campaign that refused money from corporate PACs (even so, she raked in $8.4 million in donations), and she’s openly bisexual. Before declaring her candidacy, Hill was executive director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), a Silver Lake nonprofit organization that finds and builds permanent housing for homeless people and families. She helped spearhead Prop HHH, a ballot measure that set out to reduce homelessness in L.A. through the creation of affordable housing units, which passed in 2016.
Yes, Katie Hill made a serious mistake, and displayed a costly lack of judgement in participating in an affair with a campaign aide. But nothing she did, and nothing she was accused of doing, warranted the violation perpetrated by RedState and the Daily Mail. Nor was there any overriding public need to know involved in the publication of those intimate photographs of a congressional representative.
Their publication did, however, lead to her resignation. As they most surely were intended to do.
It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.
See my official statement below. pic.twitter.com/nG97RQIwvO
— Rep. Katie Hill (@RepKatieHill) October 27, 2019
The speaker of the House put it this way:
“Congresswoman Katie Hill came to Congress with a powerful commitment to her community and a bright vision for the future, and has made a great contribution as a leader of the Freshman Class. She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable. We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”
It is my hope that Speaker Pelosi applies that same necessity to maintain a “climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress” to the actions of the Republican members who invaded the SCIF last week in order to take pictures and garner headlines. But, double standards being very hard to eradicate, make that unlikely.
In our current era of digital images that are so easy to capture and transmit, we have to move to protect victims whose photographs are published online without their consent. Right now 46 states, and the District of Columbia outlaw the practice. We need a federal law that will insure that no matter which state has jurisdiction, a photo taken in one state and published by an outfit headquartered in another state victimizing a woman living in a third state will result in criminal charges being filed.
In the meantime, look who is running for Katie Hill’s seat:
— CATargetBot (@CATargetBot) October 29, 2019