We’ve been seeing something of a mixed bag in terms of the media coverage of former congresswoman Katie Hill’s abrupt departure from the swamp. As Ed pointed out yesterday, it’s true that the claims of a “double standard” in Hill’s treatment have been rejected by some reporters at outlets including NPR and the Washington Post. But others have been far more generous.
Yesterday, the Free Beacon noted some examples of this generosity, a few of which (unsurprisingly) cropped up at MSNBC. Charlotte Alter of Time Magazine had written an opinion piece on Hill’s departure and was forced to defend her defense of Hill during an interview segment there. She finally agreed that claims of a “double standard” being applied to Hill were “a little bit strained,” but not before suggesting that the opposite was true.
Time reporter Charlotte Alter on Friday said former representative Katie Hill’s (D., Calif.) claim that a “double standard” forced her out of Congress is “a little bit strained.”
“Certainly a male staffer who is having an affair with a female subordinate would not be afforded the same sympathy she’s been afforded,” Alter said on MSNBC Live.
Alter noted that Hill’s sex scandal, which arose after the conservative website RedState published compromising photos of Hill with a female campaign staffer, also differed from previous high-profile sex scandals because no one involved with Hill complained of “abuse” or “harassment” beforehand.
In order to get the full flavor of how Alter was dancing on the head of a pin here, check out this two-minute video from the interview. In particular, take note of the MSNBC chyron as she launches into her explanation of the “nude picture fallout” before admitting that describing it as a double standard was a bridge too far.
The telling chyron entry is the title of Alter’s piece, which should tell you a lot. “Katie Hill is the first millennial lawmaker to resign because of nudes. She won’t be the last.”
Also, Alter was launching into a bit of a double standard herself before the host cut her off, saying “We also have a new and increasingly ruthless code of social ethics and sexual ethics in particular that make it very, very problematic for there to be any kind of sexual relationship between a boss and a subordinate.”
I don’t think we’d be seeing anyone discussing the backlash to a male supervisor and a female subordinate (to say nothing of a gay male subordinate) in a sexual relationship as a “ruthless code of social ethics.” The imbalance of power between the boss and a staff member makes the relationship unacceptable to begin with according to the current rules. And yet Alter was clearly preparing to launch into an attack on Hill’s supposed treatment.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s keep in mind that Hill wasn’t “forced” to resign and none of her troubles had anything to do with the nude photos except for the damning evidence they presented, proving that she was fooling around with her female staffer. Not one member of Congress from either party had called for her to step down. That was a decision she made on her own. The ethics investigation wasn’t accusing her of having nude pictures circulating. It was focused on whether or not she had a sexual relationship with an aide in violation of House rules. That’s the relationship she has continued to deny, but her resignation conveniently brings that investigation to a close.
As a side note, Alter wasn’t the only person on MSNBC’s airwaves to take Hill’s side in all of this. Earlier this week, Chris Hayes said it appeared that the “bad guys” won when Hill stepped down. Margaret Carlson of the Daily Beast called the resignation a “tragedy.” And those two were hardly alone.
The fact remains that Hill didn’t have to resign. Plenty of people far more famous than her have had intimate photos leak into the public eye and soldiered on with their careers intact. She could have stuck around and let the ethics investigation play out. If she really wasn’t having an affair with her male aide after taking office then she would have been cleared. (While generally deemed inappropriate, the affair with the female campaign staffer prior to taking office likely wouldn’t have put her afoul of House rules.) In the end, the only reason Katie Hill is no longer in office is that she chose to walk away, just as she chose to engage in the actions that gave birth to this scandal.