California freshman congresswoman Katie Hill bid a defiant farewell to the House on Thursday, suggesting a double standard forced her resignation amid a messy divorce, "gutter" politics and nude photos made public.
Leaving her apartment, she said, for the first time since the photos were published in a conservative publication, the scarlet-suited Hill cast her final House vote in favor of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
In her last floor speech, Hill apologized to supporters, especially young girls and those who are different, for letting them down after toppling a Republican incumbent and rocketing toward the top of Democratic politics. Then she turned her fury on a system that she said allows Trump and other men accused of misconduct to remain in some of the highest offices in the country.
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"This is bigger than me. I am leaving now because of a double standard," Hill, who only days ago sat at the Democratic leadership table, said from the well of the mostly empty House. "I'm leaving, but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office."
There was no such complaint against the 32-year-old Hill. But she announced her resignation Sunday night amid an ethics committee investigation into whether she had engaged in an affair with a male congressional staffer, which she denied and which would have broken House rules. Hill, who identifies as bisexual, acknowledged having a consensual affair with a female aide on her campaign.
Meanwhile, a conservative outlet published nude photos of Hill with another woman, a development she blamed on what she called an abusive husband and ruthless political operatives.
Hill added, "I'm leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures (and) capitalized on my sexuality." She said the photos were taken and posted without her consent.
Hill's fall laid bare generational and cultural fault lines that had defined the new Democratic majority since it took control of the House in January as the youngest, most female and most diverse caucus in history. The rift runs between the veterans who run the House and their would-be proteges, younger members like Hill with little memory of life before social media and digital footprints.
As Hill delivered her resignation speech, some of her fellow freshmen signaled their support by sitting in the front row. Among them, her roommate on Capitol Hill, Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois, and Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Joe Neguse of Colorado.
In contrast, there was a distinct lack of support from the House's upper echelons for Hill to fight the scandal and stay in office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who picked Hill for a post at the leadership table, issued a statement soon after the resignation announcement praising the congresswoman but adding that the developments had made the prospect of Hill keeping her seat "untenable."
On Thursday, just before the impeachment vote, Pelosi called Hill an "outstanding young public servant" who is patriotic and respected. She said it's "shameful" that Hill was humiliated. And she emphasized that Hill stepped down on her own.
"Katie Hill's decision to resign is her decision to resign," Pelosi, 79, said, adding that she tells her grandchildren to be careful about social media. The matter, Pelosi said, is "bigger than one person. It's about how people have presented themselves over time and again exploitation by others who get the information and we don't know how and that's not right."
Hill said the photos were taken and posted without her consent and enabled what she said was more abuse from a husband she is divorcing. She said she'd been warned that political operatives had hundreds more nude pictures that they were planning to release "bit by bit until they broke me down to nothing while they used my faults and my past to distract from the things that matter most."
Hill said she resigned in part because she didn't want to be a distraction.
"There's only one investigation that deserves the attention of this country, and that's the one we voted on today," Hill said of the impeachment proceedings.
Trump, who can be heard on an "Access Hollywood" recording bragging about grabbing and kissing women without their consent, denies accusations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women. Two Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, have also denied accusations of sexual impropriety.