Rep. Katie Hill has had quite the week. RedState, a conservative blog, posted an accusatory article about her, accompanied by nude photos and screenshots of private messages. The photos reveal a formerly secret relationship between Hill and her campaign staffer Morgan Desjardins. And the story claims Hill, her former husband, and Desjardins were in a ‘throuple’ relationship. RedState also published allegations that Hill was sexually involved with a male congressional staff member — which Hill denies.
Many are upset about the accusations and Hill’s GOP challenger is calling for her to step down from Congress, citing her behavior as inexcusable. This is absurd. Yes, Hill did make arguably inappropriate decisions as a sitting congresswoman. But a consensual relationship with another adult is no reason to end her career. No matter how different that relationship might be, it was not in violation of any House ethics rules.
Instead of shying away from the humiliating reports, Hill has been extremely forthcoming to the public about what happened. In a letter to her constituents and supporters, Hill fully admits her involvement with Desjardins saying that ‘a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgement. For that I apologize.’ She describes that it took place during the ‘final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage.’ Hill did not try to cover up her actions by being vague but instead gave details about her perspective alongside an apology, which is a noble action that most politicians probably wouldn’t risk. That hasn’t stopped the media from tarnishing her name by continually spreading rumors and publishing defamatory content.
The stories about Hill have sparked discussions of ethical obligations of a member of Congress. Yet breaching the ethical line of journalism for more internet clicks is absolutely wrong. Hill’s supposed misjudgment in her private relationships does not affect her ability to do her job. But as the rumors garner more and more attention, this idea that her sexual judgments will affect her policy decisions is unfounded.
Some news organizations like the Daily Mail made the shameful decision to repost the nude photos. There is nothing to gain by partaking in spreading the private pictures of Hill, circulated without her knowledge or consent.
Hill’s private relationships shouldn’t be of grave concern to the public — and the media should recognize this. She is a bisexual adult with the right to be polyamorous if she pleases. The House Ethics Committee is investigating the affair claims, and until it’s complete, there is nothing of substance for the media to share.
The most regrettable aspect of the ordeal is that Hill was in a position of power at the time of her relationship with her campaign staffer. According to the New York Times, ‘Some male Democrats said privately on Tuesday that if Ms Hill had been a man, there would have been an immediate uproar that would most likely have ended in a forced resignation.’ Ultimately, though, the relationship was consensual.
Hill is a victim of the media spreading falsehoods and private photos of her — egregious actions that tell us more about the publications partaking than Hill herself. Even though some voter may blush at her private life, unless her actions impact the policy decisions she makes, it’s truly none of their business.
Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a Utah think tank.