In 2019, RedState found itself in the crosshairs of a very irate Congresswoman who was caught up in a scandal.
Former Congresswoman Katie Hill’s most ardent defenders would have you believe the scandal was all about the publishing of intimate photos featuring Hill and a woman she was in a relationship with along with her now-ex as part of a “throuple,” a term I regret ever learning.
The real scandal, however, was not that she was in these photos, but that she was verbally abusive of the woman in the photo and was also allegedly in a side relationship with a Congressional staffer, a major no-no in Washington D.C. The photos were both evidence of Hill’s relationship with the female campaign staffer and the issues it was causing in both her personal and professional lives.
Hill responded to the stories by resigning from Congress and suing all the entities involved, including RedState Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar, who broke the original story.
Before that lawsuit, though, several reporters were working on covering RedState’s coverage rather than the scandal itself – again, the major ethics violation that was a relationship with a staffer who was on the campaign payroll at the time and a relationship that was unknown to her husband at the time and not part of the “throuple” that was in the photos. Major media outlets focused on Hill’s response to the scandals, which primarily consisted of her shouting about revenge porn and not about the major ethics violation, and that’s what those media outlets ran with.
It was, as I mentioned almost two years ago, a major violation of what journalism is supposed to be.
Instead, to most of these outlets, the story is one of a poor Congresswoman whose abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband is leaking photos to make her look bad during divorce proceedings. It’s the story of a woman whose sexuality is being punished. It’s the story of far-right troublemakers posting revenge porn against political opponents. None of that is real, but that is the spin we have seen and will continue to see from people who don’t like the fact that a non-traditional, non-mainstream, and (worst of all) conservative outlet broke the story.
It is because of that hostility to places like RedState, where we do not hide our partisan lean, that actual, real journalism can so often get ignored or butchered. It is journalistic malpractice to pretend that the story Jen broke is anything other than how she has covered it.
One of Hill’s most ardent defenders, however, was Alex Thomas, who at the time was a D.C. reporter for Playboy. He made multiple attempts to get comments from RedState, and Van Laar in particular, regarding allegations that she was involved with the NRCC and other groups who were supposedly shopping the photos around. He did not hide those allegations. They were in his communications with us.
He publicly attacked the credibility of the story, though his tweets from that time period have all been deleted, and probably because of what we learned pretty quickly: He was seen in a relationship with Hill. It was apparently the gossip of the town.
You’d think Katie Hill might want to stay off the dating scene for a hot second.
Beltway babble has been rumbling for some time that Hill — the California congresswoman who resigned in October when her “throuple” relationship with a younger female campaign staffer and her now-estranged husband spectacularly exploded — is dating . . . who else . . . a Playboy writer.
And Page Six is told that the rumors seemed to be confirmed when Hill, 32, surprised the political journo set by showing up to a Manhattan book party this week with the alleged Bunny beau, Alex Thomas, Playboy’s political correspondent out of DC.
All of this brings me to the present. Hill has lost all of the court cases – in which she alleged a “conspiracy” based on Thomas’ reporting – that she used to attempt to silence RedState, Van Laar, and others. The courts have found that no laws were violated in the publishing of the photos, which were evidence of the relationships described in the stories, and that there was no conspiracy. Hill now owes an incredible amount of legal fees, but refuses to be served a subpoena for a debtor’s exam on those.
And while she will say nothing about those issues, she will continue to shout about the revenge porn that never was in a puff piece announcing that she and her partner, Thomas, are expecting their first child, according to Vanity Fair.
I very sincerely congratulate Hill and Thomas on their upcoming child, but this story confirms what we knew – namely that Thomas at the very least violated basic journalism ethics while covering a scandal involving his girlfriend. But that won’t get a whole lot of mention since it was two years ago when the original story broke. The puff piece is also highly sympathetic to Hill’s side of the court decisions.
Despite a California law that makes it illegal to share such images when “the person distributing the image knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress,” the judge threw out the case very early, arguing that the defendants were protected by so-called anti-SLAPP legislation, a California statute often used by members of the media to protect their right to free speech against allegations of defamation.
The case was thrown out because it was evidence within a story of public interest. It wasn’t a protection against “allegations of defamation,” which was not even part of the lawsuit, nor is it even up for debate – defamation would require one or more of the claims to be intentionally false, and nothing in any of the stories containing the photos was ever proven false (or even really denied) by Hill’s camp. That does not stop the Vanity Fair piece from being totally on board with her claims of victimhood and pushing her narrative rather than the truth.
But the piece does go on to say that Hill owes about $400,000 in legal fees. This is not because journalists were allowed to publish revenge porn, nor is it because the courts favor the First Amendment more than a woman’s privacy. This is about the fact that Hill attacked the foundations of journalism itself and attempted to silence critics fairly reporting on her very problematic relationships in and out of her Congressional office, and the power imbalance at play with a Congresswoman having an affair with a staffer. She tried to silence journalists, and the courts slapped that down.
As a result, she owes these legal fees and is considering bankruptcy. I feel sorry that she is in such a position, but it is a position of her own – and her partner’s – creation. Rather than take ownership of her mistakes, she lashed out at those that exposed her and it’s left her nearly half a million dollars in the hole.
If, as the Vanity Fair piece indicates, she is wishing to turn the page to the next chapter of her life, perhaps taking that responsibility and paying those legal fees would be a good first step.