U.S. Representative Katie Hill, who serves for California’s 25th congressional district, came under fire this week due to explicit photos that were published by the Daily Mail that show her in an intimate relationship with a former staffer. Morgan Desjardins, now 24, began working for Hill’s campaign in 2017, and shortly after allegedly became involved in a three-way relationship with Hill and her now-estranged husband Kenny Heslep.
On Wednesday the House Committee on Ethics announced that it was opening an investigation into allegations that Hill had been engaged in an improper relationship with a congressional staffer, which presents a possible violation of House rules.
Aside from the allegations of an improper relationship, in one photo Hill can be seen smoking a large bong (in 2017, before recreational marijuana was legal in the state of California) in the nude and sporting what appears to be a Nazi-era Iron Cross tattoo on her bikini area — leading to speculation as to the true nature of the tattoo:
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) references in its hate symbols database that the iron cross symbol goes back to the 19th century, included on medals for the German Empire. It was later adopted by Nazis for their medals, putting a swastika in the middle of the cross.
However, the ADL does note the ‘Iron Cross in isolation (i.e., without a superimposed swastika or without other accompanying hate symbols) cannot be determined to be a hate symbol,’ because bikers, skateboarders and extreme sports enthusiasts frequently use the symbol.
All things considered however, the timing of the surfaced photos seems rather suspicious considering that she and Heslep are currently embroiled in a bitter divorce. Following the release of the photos, Hill alluded to being the subject of a revenge porn campaign orchestrated by her ex. In a statement released Tuesday, Hill said that the photos had been published without her consent, and that she was working with Capitol Hill police, who are currently investigating the situation.
Likewise, Hill reinforced her position on the scandal in a letter to her constituents on Wednesday night:
“During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign. I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment. For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.
But the truth is, distributing intimate photos with the intent to publish them is a crime, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law. I have notified Capitol Police, who are investigating it, and therefore will have no further comment on the matter.
I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and the people close to me is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”
Hill did not comment on the tattoo in particular, as developments are still unfolding in both the possible criminal investigation and House ethics inquiry.