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Stephanopoulos Praises ‘Incredibly Resilient’ Katie Hill; Should She Have Stayed and Fought?

Good Morning America

2/20/20

8:17:58 -8:22:50 AM EST

STEPHANOPOULOS: Time for our “GMA” cover story, my exclusive interview with Katie Hill. She is the congresswoman who resigned from office after nude pictures of her with a campaign aide were leaked online. She reflected on her rise and fall in politics and explains why she rejects the term revenge porn.

HILL: This is the last speech that I will give from this floor as a member of Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Once a rising star in the democratic party, Katie Hill a 32-year-old freshman congresswoman from California resigned less than a year after taking office. Was the biggest mistake having a relationship with a campaign staffer?

HILL: Absolutely. When I started to run for Congress, it was — I was a nobody. I was a nonprofit director that was — that 29 years old when I jumped in. I did not have any political experience and so I was a complete long shot but my team, which built over time, was — especially the people who were there in the beginning, it never felt like an employee/employer relationship in the way that I had been an executive at a large organization before. The boundaries were completely different because you’re truly in the trenches with this very small team. Where I think I made the biggest mistake was not setting those boundaries from the very beginning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In October intimate photos and text messages of Hill began leaking online. Hill, who was in the midst of a divorce, has accused her estranged husband Kenny Heslep of leaking the photos in an act of cyberexploitation.

The photos were released and you were accused of not only having a relationship with a campaign staffer but having a relationship with someone on your congressional staff which obviously would cross all kinds of ethical lines.

HILL: That accusation came from my ex-husband and it launched —

STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s not true?

HILL: No, especially the person that he was accusing me of was somebody who — he was my first hire, right? He was the first person who worked on my campaign and he came with me to Washington and were friends and it shows you how easy it is to — when you’re talking about someone especially a woman being a victim of something like the photos, right, or cyberexploitation or revenge porn or whatever you want to call it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you want to call it?

HILL: Well, there is a problem with the term revenge porn because it implies that there is something to be taking revenge for, right, that the woman maybe did something wrong in the first place. And pornography could imply that it was consensual and it’s not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Overnight lawyers for Hill’s estranged husband say Ms. Hill made no allegations of abuse her petition for dissolution. Mr. Heslep denies any allegations of abuse or wrongdoing outright. The parties are currently in the process of negotiating a settlement. Mr. Heslep respectfully asks for privacy during this time. How much of you regrets the decision to actually resign? Any part of you think you should have stayed and fought?

HILL: I strongly feel that I made the right call in stepping down for several reasons, one of which is that I did not want to be a liability to my colleagues. We knew from the people who had the photos that, you know, that had obtained the photos that there were hundreds more images and text messages that were out there that I had no idea what they could be or how they could be taken out of context.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your story exploded. I think political scandals always explode to some degree but how much of it is tied to the fact in your mind that you’re bisexual?

HILL: I think a lot of it is and it’s also partly because I’m a woman. We haven’t seen as many, right,

of the sex scandals with women but the bisexuality is a huge part of it, right? This is — there’s a fantasy element of it. There’s bi phobia that is rampant still and certainly misunderstanding of what bisexuality is and it’s sensationalizing, right? The headlines are much better than just, oh, congresswoman has, you know, affair with former campaign staffer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You wrote in the days after your resignation you seemed like you were very close to suicide.

HILL: Uh-huh.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What stopped you from taking that final fatal step?

HILL: It was my family and it was the people who I knew it would for lack of a better word break, but I knew of all the girls and young women who looked up to me who saw this happen to me, if the ultimate outcome was that this destroyed me and, you know, I committed suicide what does that tell them? And that can’t — that couldn’t be my final story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, it’s amazing what she’s been through in the last few years. That rise and fall in Congress. In January her brother, 20-year-old brother died. Her mom had brain surgery. Now she’s fighting back but one thing you have to say for her, she is incredibly resilient woman.

ROBIN ROBERTS: For her to be willing to speak with you like that does say something about her.

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