Politicians are targeted regularly for extortion. It’s much more common than most Americans realize and has only spiked in the #MeToo era as both real victims of sexual misconduct and those making false claims in hopes of a payday pepper our representatives with threats all the time. Some are credible, which is why Congress makes hush money payments far more often than we should accept. But there’s a bigger risk than lawsuits and hush money. Sometimes, politicians put themselves into situations that leave them vulnerable to blackmail.
Representative Katie Hill (D-CA) had photos and text messages of her “throuple” relationship leaked to conservative site Red State. The nude photo they published was properly censored and tasteful. Apparently, there were more explicit images available, but the site decided to stick to facts and real challenges this situation poses rather than turn tabloid to exploit a scoop.
Heslep and the staffer, according to text messages provided to RedState, believed the polyamorous arrangement to be a long-term, committed relationship. The trio took multiple vacations together, including to Alaska, where this photograph was taken.
RedState was also provided with intimate photographs of the women, which we have chosen not to publish.
According to a source close to the staffer, the throuple agreed to continue their committed relationship when Hill moved to Washington, D.C. on January 2019, but that Heslep and the staffer quickly noticed a difference in Hill’s demeanor. By late May, Hill broke off her relationships with both Heslep and the staffer, claiming she wanted to focus on “this important work” and that it wasn’t fair to be involved in a relationship. The staffer, as these text messages show, was distraught and trying to figure out how to move on with her life.
This is the best-case scenario for Hill. Less scrupulous publications would have gone for the clickbait of publishing all of the photos. The decision to keep the story focused to the events instead of humiliating someone for having a consensual relationship was the right move.
As bad as it would have been for Hill if the leak was delivered to the wrong publications, it’s nothing compared to the potential damage done to her and our country if the leak went to those interested in blackmail or extortion. Hill is on the powerful Armed Services committee in which she receives top secret documents. She’s also vice chair of Oversight and Reform. Had a nefarious group, foreign or domestic, gotten their hands on the photos and text messages first, this could have turned into a disaster.
As it stands, it’s a scandal that she’ll have to address. Again, this is the best-case scenario for how the images have been disseminated.
Kudos to author Jennifer Van Laar and Red State for taking the high road on the Katie Hill scandal. This could have been very bad for both Hill and the nation if these details had been leaked to the wrong people or publication.
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