One day after announcing her resignation from Congress amid allegations of a relationship with a staff member and the online release of explicit photos, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Santa Clarita, lashed out Monday at what she called a "revenge porn" campaign designed "to try to destroy me."
In a video posted online, Hill said she would become a crusader to prevent such attacks from victimizing other women or preventing women and girls from aspiring to public office.
"Those of you who know me know that I am a fighter," she said. "... I'm going to continue to fight for our democracy, for representation, for justice and quality and making the world a better place. And I will also take up a new fight. I will fight to ensure that no one else has to live through what I just experienced.
"Some people call this electronic assault, digital exploitation. Others call it revenge porn. As a victim of it, I call it one of the worst things we can do to our sisters and our daughters. I will stand up for those cannot stand up for themselves. ... I will not allow my experience to scare off other young women or girls from running for office. For the sake of us all, we cannot let that happen."
She apologized to her supporters, noting that "I never claimed to be perfect."
"But I never thought my imperfections would be weaponized and used to try to destroy me and the community I've loved for my entire life," she said. "For that, I am so incredibly sorry."
The House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday that it had begun an investigation into Hill over allegations that she had a relationship with one of her staffers. Hill has denied the allegation, although she conceded having a relationship with a member of her campaign staff -- a relationship that was apparently shared with her husband.
In the past week, intimate photos of Hill -- California's first openly bisexual member of Congress -- and the female campaign staffer surfaced on the conservative website RedState. Hill said last week she had contacted U.S. Capitol Police about the photos, saying they were "published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent."
RedState published a series of articles over the last week alleging Hill was involved in relationships with a campaign staffer and, separately, the congressional staff member. Text messages purportedly between Hill, the campaign aide and her husband were also published by the site.
"This coordinated campaign carried out by the right-wing media and Republican opponents enabling and perpetuating my husband's abuse by providing him a platform is disgusting and unforgivable," Hill said in her video statement on Monday.
Hill is in the midst of divorcing her husband, who has not commented on the situation.
In her video, Hill reiterated her Sunday statement that resigning her seat was one of the most difficult of her life, but said she did not want to remain in Congress and detract from the work being done there.
"I will not allow myself to be a distraction from the constitutional crisis we're faced with and the critical work of my colleagues," she said.
"And so I have to take my personal fight outside the halls of Congress."
Also on Monday, Assemblywoman Christy Smith announced her candidacy for the seat being vacated by Hill.
Former Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, whom Hill defeated last November, wrote on his Facebook page Sunday that he is exploring a possible bid to reclaim the seat, writing, "I am looking to run and am thankful for all the calls encouraging me to return to Congress."
Mike Garcia, a former Naval officer who is among the Republicans who had announced their candidacies before Hill's troubles surfaced, said Sunday, "Katie Hill did the right thing by resigning from Congress.
"The past week has been a complete distraction from the important work that needs to be done, and it's time for our district to move forward and unite around a leader," he said.
Another previously declared Republican candidate, Mark Cripe, said Hill's resignation "affords California's 25th District an opportunity to move forward in a positive direction, with new representation that better hears and supports all the families of the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys."
The 25th Congressional District includes Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley, Antelope Valley and eastern Ventura County.
Hill was executive director of People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), which bills itself as California's largest homeless services organization, before being elected to Congress.
Hill was vice chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee and House Science, Space and Technology Committee.