Over the past few weeks, freshman representative Katie Hill has been in the news regarding her admission to inappropriate relations with a campaign staffer and leakage of naked photos. Additionally, there have been allegations that Hill had further inappropriate relations with a congressional staffer, which is against House rules. Shortly after the story and pictures were leaked on a conservative blog, the Daily Mail and a British tabloid site, Hill resigned from congress. As this story has unfolded, however, important questions have been raised regarding a double standard that exists in Washington for male and female politicians.
In the wake of the “Me Too” movement that hit Washington, rules within the House of Representatives have been tightened to prohibit any form of relations with congressional staffers. The alleged relationship between Hill and her congressional staffer have yet to be confirmed and are currently under investigation. Hill’s relationship with her campaign staffer, while inappropriate, is not technically against House rules. Further, Hill alleges that her nude photos were released to the press by her husband with whom she is currently going through divorce proceedings.
Regardless of wrongdoing on the part of Rep. Hill, a double standard arises when compared to her male colleagues. Former Sen. David Vitter, for example, was re-elected despite his admission of involvement in a Washington prostitution ring while in office. Transcripts documented that pro-life Rep. Scott DesJarlais had multiple affairs, one of whom he urged to have an abortion. He is still in office.
The list goes on and on with similar stories.
Rep. Hill pointed to this double standard during her final speech before congress saying, “we have men credibly accused of sexual assault who are in boardrooms, in the supreme court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office … ”
Hill’s final act as a Representative was voting for the impeachment proceeding of Donald Trump.
The discrepancy between the way male and female elected officials have been treated is supported by research. A Pew Research Center survey showed that 31% of people believe that women in high political offices were more honest and ethical, as opposed to 4% of men in high political offices. Clearly, we hold different expectations of women and men in office.
While Rep. Katie Hill made serious mistakes while in office, her case highlights a double standard that exists at all levels of society, perhaps most pronounced amongst politicians.