The reporter who published nude photos of Democratic Representative Katie Hill worked for a Republican candidate who opposed Hill, and has urged support for Republican candidates to win Hill's seat, Politico reports.
Jennifer Van Laar, a deputy managing editor at RedState, published barely censored nude photos of Hill without her consent on the conservative blog as well as on Daily Mail, alleging that Hill previously had relationships with staffers.
Hill, one of the first openly bisexual women in Congress, denied allegations that she was involved with legislative director Graham Kelly, but admitted to a consensual but "inappropriate" relationship with a female staffer, and apologized. She resigned on Sunday, and gave a farewell address on Thursday, calling out the "double standard" that caused her to resign. While a relationship with a staffer is unethical, sharing nude photos of someone without their consent is considered revenge porn or nonconsensual pornography, which is illegal in the District of Columbia, and punishable by up to 180 days in jail. Hill has since threatened legal action over the matter.
Van Laar justified her decition to publish the nude photo of Hill by writing in her piece that when affairs invovle members of a workplace and "that workplace is the United States Congress, the public should know about them as they determine that elected official’s fitness to serve.”
Van Laar previously worked for former Congressman Steve Knight's 2014 campaign; Knight lost his seat to Hill when she beat him in an election last year, flipping the traditionally red 25th district in California. Shortly after Hill resigned, Van Laar tweeted urging support for Republican candidates to win her seat. She also suggested she'd back Knight if he ran again, tweeting, "I'd be #TeamKnight again in a heartbeat."
While Van Laar's political views — which align with those of the RedState staff as well as the blog's owner, Salem Media Group, according to Politico — are not secret, her involvment in the scandal does raise eyebrows. As writer Michael Calderone put it, "Van Laar’s shift from reporting on Hill, and publishing what some have deemed 'revenge porn,' to promoting Republicans for Hill’s old job is a blurring of roles that would be unacceptable in mainstream newsrooms."
Meanwhile, George Papadopoulos, the ex-Trump aide who went to jail last year for lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential race, tweeted one day before RedState's story was published, writing, “California’s 25th congressional district looks like it’s for the taking.” After Hill's resignation, he filed paperwork to run for her seat.
In her farewell speech on Thursday, Hill blasted the "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 has said that the leaked photos came from her estranged husband.
"I am leaving now because of a double standard," she said. "I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I'm leaving because I didn't want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics I've ever seen, and the right-wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photographs of me taken without my knowledge — let alone my consent — for the sexual entertainment of millions."
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