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Rep. Katie Hill’s Resignation Ignites Debates Over Double Standards and Revenge Porn

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  • U.S. Representative Katie Hill (D-CA) announced her resignation on Oct. 27 after a right-wing political blog alleged she had engaged in two inappropriate relationships with staffers and leaked nude photos of her.
  • Hill publicly apologized for the relationships and has vowed to fight revenge porn following her resignation.
  • The incident has prompted a national debate over how female politicians are treated in scandals involving inappropriate relationships and nude photo leaks in comparison to men.
  • While some have called Hill a victim of revenge porn, others have criticized her for allowing the photos to be taken in the first place.

Inappropriate Relationship Allegations and Nude Photos

U.S. Representative Katie Hill’s resignation, stained by allegations of two inappropriate relationships with staffers and nude photo leaks, has sparked a national debate over how to treat sexual misconduct allegations against female politicians.

Hill, a 32-year-old Democrat representing California’s 25th district, defeated incumbent Republican Steve Knight in the 2018 midterms to secure her first term in office. Prior to Hill, Republicans had held the seat since 1993.

On Oct. 27, however, Hill announced she would be ending her term earlier than expected after a right-wing political blog detailed the potential misconduct allegations against her.

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” she wrote. “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.”

On Oct. 10, the blog accused her of having an affair with the legislative director of her congressional staff. Then on Oct. 18, the blog accused Hill of engaging in another inappropriate relationship, this one occurring before the first. According to the blog, Hill was involved in a three-way relationship between her husband and a female campaign staffer.

The second post also included private text messages and even nude photos of Hill. Although it did somewhat censor those photos, it still leaked them without Hill’s knowledge or consent. Since the leaks, Hill has implied that she thinks her husband might have supplied those photos to the blog.

By the time the second relationship with the legislative director was alleged to have occurred, Hill and her husband were estranged.

“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill said in her resignation letter.

“Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy,” she continued before calling the leaking of her photos illegal.

Hill then went to the U.S. Capitol Police, which opened an investigation to find out who leaked the photos.

Under California and Washington D.C. law, cyber exploitation—more commonly known as revenge porn—is illegal. 

House Ethics Committee Investigation

On October 23rd, the House Ethics Committee announced it would also open an investigation, this time focused on whether or not Hill had that inappropriate relationship with her legislative director.

The investigation itself generated a fresh wave of headlines because of a new ethics rule passed in Congress last year to address sexual misconduct among lawmakers in the wake of the #MeToo era. If found to have engaged in such a relationship, Hill would be in direct violation of the rule, which prohibits members of Congress from engaging in sexual relationships with their aides.

Later that same day, Hill sent a letter to her constituents, admitting she had engaged in the “inappropriate relationship” with her female campaign staffer; however, she also noted that the relationship occurred before she became a Congresswoman. While not against the established ethics rules, advocates have still said such a relationship between a person in power and an employee is inappropriate.

Hill then denied having an inappropriate relationship with her legislative director and promised to cooperate with the ethics investigation.

“She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of her resignation. “We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”

Revenge Porn and Reaction

Much of the debate over the handling of Hill’s scandal has focused on the use of so-called revenge porn to justify and prove the existence of the allegations made against her. 

In a comment on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said much of the story was exacerbated by the existence of the photos and that they were one of the main issues.

“Unfortunately, those pictures were leaked after an erotic adventure went awry,” he said. “I mean, everybody was having fun, and this when it breaks apart, that’s why you don’t take pictures! That’s the moral lesson here!”

The argument is similar to that actress Bella Thorne’s nude photo leak in June, where Whoopi Golberg criticized Thorne on The View for taking such photos in the first place. 

On the other side of things, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) told BuzzFeed News that Hill is the victim of a double standard for female politicians.

“It was clearly meant to embarrass her,” Harris said of Hill. “There’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.”

Double Standard for Women in Politics

Harris’ comments struck another aspect of the debate: a double standard for women in politics. While Hill is being investigated for potentially breaking ethics rules, a very serious matter, the information came about by means of nude photos and private messages.

According to the New York Times, “[Hill’s] resignation highlights another generational issue: the new kinds of internet exposure that lawyers and activists say could have an impact on a whole class of rising politicians.”

Yesterday, Hill announced her vow to fight revenge porn following her resignation. 

“I will not allow my experience to scare off young women or girls from running for office. For the sake of all of us, we cannot let that happen,” she said. “I’m hurt. I’m angry. The path that I saw so clearly for myself is no longer there.”

“I never claim to be perfect,” she said, “but I never thought my imperfections would be weaponized and used to try to destroy me the community I have loved for my entire life.”  

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Vox) (USA Today)

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Sanders and Warren Disagree Over CNN Report That Alleges Sanders Said a Woman Couldn’t Win the Presidency

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  • A CNN report released on Monday alleges that Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency, according to four anonymous sources.
  • Sanders has denied the claim, calling it “ludicrous.” 
  • The Washington Post later reported a source as saying that Sanders did not say he did not believe a woman could be president, but rather said Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic nominee. 
  • Warren stood by the original allegation, saying that Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win the White House but added she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, calling him an ally and a friend.

Allegations

A CNN report released on Monday detailed a December 2018 meeting between presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in which Sanders allegedly said that he did not believe a woman could win the election. 

The report said that its details of that encounter were based on accounts from four anonymous people, two that Warren spoke with soon afterward, and two “familiar with the meeting.” 

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the assertion a “lie,” and the Vermont senator denied the claim himself in a statement. 

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN. 

According to The Washington Post, two people with knowledge of the 2018 meeting told the news outlet that Warren asked Sanders if he thought a woman could win the White House. One of these sources said that Sanders did not say he believed a woman couldn’t win, but rather that Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic candidate.  

“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in his statement. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

But later on Monday night, Warren stood by the initial allegation in a statement tweeted by her communications director.

“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said. “I thought a woman could win; [Sanders] disagreed.” 

“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she added.

Online Reactions

Regardless of who said what, both Warren and Sanders supporters were quick to jump online with their opinions. 

Many Twitter users expressed anger at the Massachusetts senator, accusing her of lying about Sanders’ comments in order to get ahead in the race. #RefundWarren began trending on Monday night, encouraging people to request refunds for donations to her campaign.

Meanwhile, Sanders supporters fell back on instances in the past where he has been explicit about his belief in equal gender opportunities.

On the flip side, others expressed their belief in Warren’s claims, arguing that she had nothing to gain from being untruthful. Many pledged their unwavering support despite the events unfolding.

Others took to Twitter to neutralize the situation, suggesting that pitting two Democratic candidates against each other does nothing productive for the party.

Warren-Sanders Relationship

While Warren called her and Sanders long-time “friends and allies in this fight,” their unspoken civil pact has faced obstacles recently. 

On Sunday, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were issued a script that criticized Warren. 

In a campaign appearance on Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” and verbalized her hopes that he redirects his campaign for the sake of not dividing their mutual political party. 

Sanders denied ever personally attacking Warren and said that each campaign has hundreds of employees who “sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.” 

Both the script and he-said-she-said drama unfolded right before the seventh Democratic debate, in which six candidates will be participating—including both Warren and Sanders. The debate will be held in Iowa, which is also where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will take place in about three weeks.  

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Axios)

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Sarah Sanders Apologizes To Joe Biden After Debate Tweet About Stuttering

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  • At a Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Joe Biden noted that he personally keeps in touch with children who have speech impediments, speaking with a stutter as he referenced one.
  • Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response, mocking his delivery.
  • Sanders faced a wave of backlash in response to her tweet.
  • She apologized after Biden himself, who has personally struggled with a stutter for most of his life, condemned her directly.

Controversial Tweet

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized on Thursday after posting a tweet that seemed to mock people with speech impediments. 

Sanders’ post, which has since been deleted, was in response to comments Joe Biden made on Thursday at the sixth Democratic presidential debate, held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. 

At one point, Biden was speaking to the efforts he makes to be accessible to the public. He referenced the “call list” he and his wife have of people with whom they regularly stay in touch. Among these, he said, is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’” Biden stuttered over the “I” and the “what” for emphasis.

“I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with,” he added. 

Biden has been open in the past about the stutter he has struggled with for most of his life, most prominently in an interview published last month in The Atlantic. In that piece, he opened up about the ways in which his speech impediment has brought him strife, from being bullied as a child to tripping him up during political speeches. 

Shortly after Biden’s comments at the debate, Sanders took to Twitter to address them.

“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Demdebate.

Sanders Slammed

Sanders’ remark was met with a wave of backlash from people across the Internet.

Sanders attempted to recover from her initial comment in a follow-up tweet that has also been deleted.

“To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment,” she wrote. “Simply pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.” 

It wasn’t until Biden responded to her directly in a tweet of his own, pointing to his own struggles, that Sanders apologized.

“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter,” he wrote. “And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”

“I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable,” Sanders replied. “I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”

Biden used the exchange with Sanders to encourage donations to his presidential campaign.

“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House chip in $5,” he wrote, adding a link to a donation page.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Vox) (New York Times)

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Trump Rebukes Impeachment Vote at Michigan Rally: “It Doesn’t Really Feel Like We’re Being Impeached.”

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  • As the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump in Washington, Trump held a Michigan rally where he spent time criticizing the impeachment process.
  • After two protesters were escorted out of the rally for causing a distraction, Trump suggested that the security guard should have been more forceful about their removal. 
  • In another statement, Trump insinuated that John Dingell, a Michigan representative who died earlier this year, was “looking up” from Hell.

Trump: “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”

While President Donald Trump was being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday evening, he blasted the entire process at a rally in Michigan.

“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” he said at the rally. “The country is doing better than ever before, we did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”

Despite being impeached while speaking in front of his supporters, Trump delayed going onstage for about an hour to watch the tail end of the debate.

During the two hour rally, Trump criticized Democrats, saying they were trying to nullify the votes of millions of Americans. He also suggested former President Barack Obama deserved to be impeached more than he did. 

At one point, the crowd began to chant “Lock her up!” in reference to both former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

However, while representatives cast their votes on the House floor, Trump told his supporters a story about stealth bombers being invisible.

“I said, ‘Fellas, how good is this plane?’” he said, mimicking a conversation between military officials. “They said, ‘Sir, it’s great.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the enemy can’t see it.’ That helps: stealth. It’s actually called super-stealth. So I said, ‘So they can’t see so you shoot at them but they can’t—’ He said, ‘They have no idea, sir.’ I said, ‘That sounds good to me.’ Nobody does it and nobody can do it, and we have the whole thing. We’ve ordered a lot of those planes.” 

Trump Says Security Should Be Rougher With Protesters

Just prior to Trump’s impeachment, two protesters in the arena unfurled a banner that read, “Don the Con. You’re Fired.”

Within seconds, the arena erupted into a series of boos, and one supporter tried to cover up the banner with Trump campaign signs. 

Those protesters were then escorted out of the rally by guards, but one of the protesters stuck up her middle fingers to the crowd before leaving. As she began shouting obscenities, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!” in return.

“There’s a slob,” Trump said while suggesting the event would not make mainstream headlines. “There’s a real slob. But wait, wait a minute. She’ll get hell when she gets back home with mom.” 

Continuing to speak on the subject of the protesters, Trump then said the security guard should have used more force.

“I’ll tell you the other thing, I don’t know who the security company is, but the police came up, but they want to be so politically correct, so they don’t grab her wrist lightly and get her out,” he said in front of a crowd of laughing supporters. “They say, ‘Oh, would you please come? Would you please come with me? Sir? Ma’am? Would you—’ And then she gives the guy the finger and you know, ‘Oh, oh.’ You gotta get a little bit stronger than that, folks.”

Trump Insinuates Dead Representative is Looking up from Hell

One of the key takeaways from the rally occurred when Trump began attacking Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell for voting “yes” to impeachment; however, Trump didn’t so much directly attack Debbie Dingell as he did her dead husband, former Representative John Dingell.

John Dingell represented Michigan from 1955 to 2015 and was the long-serving member of Congress in American history. In February, he died at the age of 92.

Using John Dingell as cannon fodder, Trump mocked Debbie Dingell by recounting a conversation he had with her after her husband’s funeral. Trump then insinuated John Dingell was looking up from Hell.

“‘Do this, do that, do that. Rotunda everything,’” he said, pretending to be Debbie Dingell. “I gave him everything—that’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up:  ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down; he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know.” 

Shortly after his comment, Debbie Dingell responded to Trump on Twitter.

“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” she said. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” 

Later, another Michigan representative, Republican Fred Upton criticized the president after voting “no” to his impeachment.

“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend,” Upton said. “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”

Thursday, on CNN, Debbie Dingell where she said that she never made any of those requests to Trump. She also said Trump was not involved in her husband’s funeral arrangements, also pointing out that her husband didn’t lie in state in the Rotunda. She then said it was Trump who called her to tell her he would be lowering the flags.

Trump’s Twitter Response to Impeachment

On his own Twitter account, Trump has been unsurprisingly active, but following the impeachment votes Wednesday night, he did not make any direct statements on the platform until Thursday morning.

Instead, he opted for retweeting a flurry of tweets from conservative lawmakers and supporters. 

“100% Republican Vote,” he said on Twitter Thursday. “That’s what people are talking about. The Republicans are united like never before!”

Later in the morning, Trump took a jab at Pelosi, calling the impeachment vote a hoax because of her refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. For her part, Pelosi has said she wants to hold the articles until she is sure the Senate will hold a fair trial. 

“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” Trump wrote. “The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!” 

Currently, Trump has also pinned a tweet with a picture of him reading, “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in the way.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Hill) (Politico)

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