Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), whom Rep. Matt Gaetz defended when she was the victim of leaked nude photos, said Monday that the Florida Republican must resign if the sexual misconduct allegations against him are true.
The ex-congresswoman, who resigned in October 2019 in response to the leaked photos and allegations of a sexual relationship with her staffer, wrote an op-ed in Vanity Fair detailing her now-ended friendship with Gaetz and her reaction to reports that he is under federal investigation for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old girl and paying for her to travel with him across state lines.
“Some of these actions are criminal and some of them should be,” Hill wrote. “All are morally reprehensible and unacceptable for a lawmaker. If there is even a fraction of truth to these reports, he should resign immediately.”
The New York Times reported last week that the Justice Department is investigating Gaetz for federal sex trafficking violations related to the alleged sexual misconduct, specifically related to the 17-year-old girl. The age of consent under federal law is 18 years, and taking the underage girl across state lines to have sex would violate federal sex trafficking laws.
The allegations stemmed from a larger investigation into Gaetz’s friend, Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg. Greenberg was indicted last year on federal sex trafficking charges allegedly involving the same 17-year-old girl Gaetz is being investigated for potentially having sex with. Gaetz is accused of working with Greenberg to recruit girls and women online for sex and sending them money in exchange, as well as taking drugs with the female targets before having sex, according to the Times.
Payments in exchange for sex could lead Gaetz to be charged with trafficking women under “force, fraud or coercion.” Providing someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex ― such as meals, hotels, drugs and alcohol ― would also be a federal child sex trafficking violation.
Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations, saying that any gifts he gave to female sexual interests were because he was a “generous partner.” The 38-year-old has also alleged that the reports are part of an extortion plot against him and his family by a former DOJ employee.
“Let me state it as clearly as possible: If, despite his denials, Matt Gaetz did have sex with a minor, if he did provide girls and young women with drugs and money and gifts in exchange for sex, if he did ask these girls and young women to recruit other women for the same purpose, and if he did show his colleagues images of nude women without their consent, he needs to be held responsible,” Hill wrote.
Gaetz also published an op-ed Monday repeating that he refuses to resign in response to the allegations, claiming in The Washington Examiner that his behavior “was not and is not illegal.” He also mentioned his defense of Hill at a time “when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn’t.”
Hill resigned from Congress over allegations that she had sexual relationships with one of her male congressional staffers ― which she denied ― and a female campaign staffer, which she confirmed and apologized for being “inappropriate.” While the scandal came out, conservative news outlets published nude photos of Hill that she said was in response to a difficult divorce from her husband at the time.
Gaetz, who was on the same House committee as Hill, was one of the few lawmakers who stood by her amid what many would consider revenge porn. In her op-ed, Hill said that Gaetz defended her “at one of the darkest moments of my life, when I was feeling more alone than I ever had.”
The former congresswoman said that the two remained in contact now and then but that their communication eventually ceased after Gaetz’s attack on former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and after his continued support of Donald Trump’s election lies.
Despite the fallout, Hill said she had initially ignored addressing the Times report in hopes Gaetz would be innocent. But, as she notes in her op-ed, CNN then reported that Gaetz had a history of showing lawmakers photos and videos on his phone of naked women he claimed to have slept with ― a topic that rings personal for the former congresswoman.
“If true, Matt had engaged in the very practice he’d defended me from,” she wrote. “Sharing intimate images or videos of someone without their consent should be illegal, plain and simple. It shouldn’t matter if it was done to hurt someone, as with revenge porn, or to brag about your sexual conquests, like Matt has been accused of doing.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.