Amid a nude photo controversy, Rep. Katie Hill denied on Tuesday having an improper relationship with a female aide and said her “abusive,” estranged husband is the source of the scandal.
“I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed,” the California Democrat told Politico in a statement.
“I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid,” the freshman lawmaker added.
Conservative blog Red State on Friday published a photo that appears to show a completely nude Hill brushing the hair of a young aide.
Sources told Politico that Hill, 32, has reached out to Democratic leaders to deny the allegations. She also said in her statement that Capitol Police are investigating the release of the photos, which she claims was done without her “consent” by “Republican operatives.”
Hill, who is openly bisexual, and her now-estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, were both allegedly involved in the relationship with the 22-year-old aide. The three-way couple took multiple vacations together, according to the report.
“The woman, whose name is not being released, was hired by Hill in late 2017 and quickly became involved in a “throuple” relationship with Hill and her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep,” Red State deputy managing editor Jennifer Van Laar wrote in the report.
“The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” Hill told Politico.
Hill earlier this year broke off the relationship with the aide, Van Laar reported. In August, Heslep said in a since-deleted Facebook post that Hill had also been having sex for at least a year with Graham Kelly, who was her finance director at the time and is now her legislative director.
In her statement to Politico, Hill denied being romantically with Kelly.
Last February, after #MeToo allegations reached the halls of Congress, the House voted to update its rules to bar lawmakers from having sexual relationships with staff members.
Although Republicans were in the majority at the time, Democrats rode the wave of female empowerment to a House majority in 2018. Hill was part of the biggest-ever class of women lawmakers to be elected, winning a “toss-up” district that was previously represented by a Republican.
Some conservatives have accused the media of a gendered and partisan double standard in covering Hill, arguing a conservative male lawmaker in her situation would be facing much heavier scrutiny in the post-#MeToo era.
Last year, Hill was caught on camera during an interview with Vice making a sex joke about one of her staffers.
She refused to apologize for her comments after being asked about them by the Los Angeles Times.
- U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hill speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.: WikiMedia Commons/Gage Skidmore