Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 7:05 pm

U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, #MeToo and GOP hypocrisy

U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., abruptly resigned Sunday after news broke, and revenge porn surfaced, showing that she had had a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer. The lurid part, in addition to the aforementioned revenge porn (and more on which anon), was that the relationship apparently at least started out as a “throuple,” that is, with Hill and her husband, Kenny Heslep, jointly and willingly inviting the staffer to join them for sex.

Democrats immediately and properly decried the revenge porn. But a lot of them also said Hill shouldn’t have been so quick to resign. They argued that the revenge porn made Hill the victim in this scenario and that her soon-to-be-ex-husband, who Hill has said was “abusive” in their relationship, should be punished for distributing it. And they argued that the “success” of this revenge porn made it more likely that others would use the same tactic in the future.

Well, they were half right.

In light of the #MeToo movement, which sprung up about two years ago, Congress enacted a new code of conduct barring relationships between members and staff. (Campaign staff aren’t covered, but the inherent dangers are real whether the staffer is House or campaign. Besides, “Katie Hill shouldn’t resign because she slept with a campaign staffer rather than a Congressional staffer” is not a hill any half-smart Democrat should be willing to die on.) Hill admitted she had had such a relationship. That alone merits her resignation, or her expulsion had she not resigned, whether there had been nude photos or not. Indeed, her behavior had become the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation by the time she resigned.

If Hill and Heslep had invited some consenting adult with no employment ties to the U.S. Congress or any member, I would have no problem with that and would argue that she should stay in office if she wanted to. That’s because I try to mind my own business when the public’s business isn’t compromised or potentially compromised or when a politician isn’t demonstrating rank hypocrisy in the juxtaposition of his public deeds and positions with his private actions. (Those who argue that Hill could have become the victim of blackmail probably didn’t realize, or care, that the blackmailer here was, according to Hill, her own husband. They’re also unconsciously validating our society’s practice of shaming women doing some of the same things men are applauded for in the sexual arena.)

But Democrats also are right to claim that there has been a significant double standard and point to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who has been indicted on campaign-finance charges and who allegedly used campaign funds to support extramarital affairs with at least five women, including lobbyists and congressional staffers. Hunter’s problems became apparent in 2018, when he was indicted. They grew worse when his wife pleaded guilty in June and named Hunter as a co-conspirator. Hunter has sat tight in his congressional seat, though. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should have held an expulsion vote no later than when his wife turned on him this past summer, and that she has not properly grates on a lot of Democrats (and at least one unaffiliated voter).

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned from the Senate in January 2018 after several women accused him of touching them inappropriately prior to his Senate career. He was right to do it. But he resigned when Republicans like Hunter are staying in Congress after far worse abuses.

And then there’s the abuser-in-chief, who has admitted on video to serially sexually assaulting women (“When you’re a star, they let you”) and has been credibly accused of it by no fewer than 25 women. Granted, there’s no rule that a president should resign because of sexual misconduct. But why should Donald J. Trump be held to a lesser standard than members of Congress?

No one, irrespective of sex or gender orientation, should ever be forced by an employer to engage in unwanted sexual activity, or have unwanted sexual activity be made a condition of continued employment or promotion. The House rules, broadly but wisely, ban any kind of sexual relationship not just with members’ own staffers but also with ANY congressional staffer, so as to preclude even the possibility of sexual harassment. That’s as it should be, and Hill must live with the consequences, irrespective of the fact that she was the victim of revenge porn.

Oh, you thought I’d forgotten about that. I don’t know why any woman would allow herself to be photographed in a compromising position (actually, I do, but that’s a subject for another post). But those who do should be guaranteed the security of their privacy by those who possess the pictures, and betrayal of that privacy, already a crime in California, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, should be a felony with mandatory prison time.

(Conservative news outlets are having a field day with this story, not least because they like giving women no benefit of any doubt. Hill, the first openly bisexual person to serve in Congress, was a natural target. Anna North of Vox does a good job of examining this double standard at the end of this article.)

 

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: