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Representative Katie Hill Criticizes “Misogynistic Culture” in Resignation Speech

Amid allegations of having an improper relationship with a campaign staffer, Democratic Representative Katie Hill stepped down from her position on Thursday, taking the opportunity to deliver a speech criticizing what she called a “misogynistic culture” that forced her to leave. During her speech, Hill pointed out a double standard in the treatment of male and female politicians, observing the hypocrisy of her departure due to a relatively minor offense when much more serious allegations have been levied against male politicians in higher-ranking positions in government. In her final address as a government official, Hill said, “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.”

Last week, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation of Hill after allegations emerged that she had violated House rules by engaging in a relationship with one of her male staffers. Hill denied this relationship, but admitted that she had an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staffer. Complicating the story even further, Hill claims that her estranged husband helped spread the allegations, and potentially helped spread nude photographs taken of Hill, making her a victim of so-called “revenge porn.” As such, the circumstances of this story portray Hill both as a victim and as somebody who has committed wrongdoing, leading to a range of interpretations of her culpability in the matter.

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On Thursday, the former congresswoman apologized to her supporters for her inappropriate relationship, but also attacked the people who circulated her private images, of which there exist hundreds. “I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse—this time, with the entire country watching,” Hill said. Despite leaving her position as a representative, Hill vowed to take legal action against those who have victimized her, as she is being represented by the high-profile revenge-porn attorney Carrie Goldberg. On Twitter, Goldberg specifically called out the far-right media for their “audacity to peddle [Hill’s] intimate pictures.”

Hill’s final action in Congress was to vote to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, whom she called out for being credibly accused by multiple victims as a sexual predator. For Hill, the impeachment of Donald Trump represented not only action against his corruption in office and his obstruction of justice, but his abuse of power over women, which has been well-documented, and to which the President has even admitted. 

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Democrats have struggled with their response to Hill’s resignation; many Democrats in Congress have said nothing at all, whereas House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, “Katie Hill’s decision to resign is her decision. She’s an absolutely outstanding young public servant. Regardless of any errors of judgment they have made, it’s shameful that she has been exposed to public humiliation by cyber exploitation.” Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, who frequently makes headlines for her strong positions on a variety of issues, argued that “a major crime” had been committed against Hill, and that the release of the nude photos by the far-right media and other bad actors would deter young women from running for office.

The allegations against Hill were published first by RedState, a conservative website, which quoted her estranged husband and posted a nude photo of Hill. Later, the Daily Mail published more nude photos of the beleaguered congresswoman. Joe Messina, a campaign adviser to Steve Knight, whom Hill replaced after the 2018 midterm election, told the Los Angeles Times that he had received hundreds of private text messages and nude photos of Hill by email and ordinary mail. Already, Republicans have filed paperwork to run for the seat vacated by Hill’s resignation, including George Papadopoulos, who drew headlines for pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during his involvement with the Trump campaign. Christy Smith, a Democratic state assemblywoman, has also announced plans to run. Though she is stepping down from her position, Hill said that she plans to remain involved in public life, saying that she “[refuses] to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful.”

Speech

Greta Thunberg Delivers Impassioned Speech to World Leaders at U.N.

Just days after leading the largest climate protest in history and testifying before Congress about climate change, 16-year old activist Greta Thunberg delivered an impassioned, angry, and scathing speech directed at world leaders at the UN today. Thunberg, whose home country is Sweden, has captured the imagination of American youth for her emissions-free voyage by boat to the US, her outsider’s view of American society, which she observes as being characterized by excessive waste and denial of climate change, and for her blunt, impolite, and unapologetic manner of speaking. Despite her sudden rise in popularity and widespread admiration, Thunberg has urged adults not to celebrate her, instead shifting the focus towards the problem that has animated her protests. As her written testimony for Congress, Thunberg submitted the 2018 global warming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saying “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”

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Last night, Thunberg in cooperation with a team of activists, projected a message onto the side of the U.N. building in 30 languages in advance of today’s summit. The message, signed with Thunberg’s name, insisted that for the sake of humanity global economic and political systems would have to undergo rapid and drastic change, urging leaders to “wake up” and saying that “everything needs to change and it has to start today.”

Although she has drawn criticism from people who have claimed she is naive, Thunberg readily admits she is not an expert in climate science, but insists that scientists ought to be listened to, and that world leaders have failed to heed their warnings. During her speech today, Thunberg was unapologetic, as she excoriated world leaders for their failure to act and essentially accused them of robbing her and her generation of their future. “How dare you,” Thunberg said, seemingly fighting back tears, “you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.” 

Thunberg warned that the consequences of continuing not to act would be remembered by her generation and generations to come.

In addition to castigating world leaders for their inaction on what she understands to be an urgent matter, Thunberg warned that the consequences of continuing not to act would be remembered by her generation and generations to come. “You are failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said. “And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” Thunberg also described the goals set by nearly every country in the world to reduce their carbon emissions as inadequate, noting that even if countries reach the targets set at the Paris Climate Accords, there is only a 50% chance that global warming will not exceed 1.5 degrees celsius. Also, Thunberg chided current strategies for dealing with climate change for relying on her generation to invent and deploy technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, essentially leaving them with the burden of cleaning up their mess.

Alongside her emotional speech, which Thunberg delivered next to a panel of climate change experts, she and 15 other child plaintiffs filed a legal complaint against five countries, alleging that they violated a treaty protecting the rights of children by knowingly contributing to climate change. The complaint is addressed to Germany, Brazil, France, Argentina, and Turkey, five countries that have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and asserts that these countries had an obligation to “prevent the deadly and foreseeable consequences” of climate change, and have long had the opportunity to do so but chose not to. On her Twitter account, Thunberg urged media outlets to report not just on her contributions to climate change activism, but to report on the countless number of other child activists and victims of climate change. This lawsuit resembles one filed by young people in the United States against the federal government, arguing that the government has a responsibility to protect young people from climate change. The lawsuit is currently being deliberated by judges from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and its outcome could have drastic effects on environmental law in the United States.