Katie Hill opens up about nude photo scandal and divorce

The former congresswoman discusses the risk of taking on a relationship with one of her staffers and her decision to resign from Congress.
8:49 | 02/21/20

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Transcript for Katie Hill opens up about nude photo scandal and divorce
So last October nude photos of you and private text messages were leaked online and you were exposed for having a relationship with your husband and a younger female staffer on your congressional campaign. So those are the facts. So two questions. How did you react when that happened? That must have been painful. And were these photos taken with or without your consent? First, the photos were taken without my consent, without my knowledge even, and of course they were put out there without my consent. And when it comes to the reaction that you have, it's very difficult to describe. Not only does your gut fall out of your -- out of the bottom of you, but you feel like something has been fundamentally ripped away that you'll never get back, this level of intimate privacy that now the entire world has seen and that never changes. That never goes away. How did you first find out? I had -- we were hearing rumblings that there were photos out there and I honestly did not think that a publication would actually do that, would actually post them. Do you think that was naive now? Probably, yeah. And I also honestly didn't think that my husband would do that, if not for me then for the other person involved. But yeah, he did and it was an incredibly difficult thing to reconcile, to recover from, and I would not say that I have fully recovered from it but finding a way to move forward is important to me. You and your husband are currently going through a divorce and you had been together since you were 16. I was 16 and he was 20. You say that he leaked them out of revenge. Why did he want revenge? So I had tried to leave in October. Our relationship had gotten increasingly toxic. I was afraid for my safety, and I left in October of -- right before the election. You know how bad it has to be for me to, like, plan an exit right before the election. So I did. My mom had to help. I moved in with my mom. Even my campaign manager ended up helping. So I was away. During that time he had a complete meltdown and he told not only me but many other people involved that if I left him, he would ruin me. So at the time the election is coming up, the November election is coming up, and I felt like I just couldn't -- I just couldn't risk it. I couldn't deal with whatever he meant by that so I ended up moving back in. But from that point forward, I knew I couldn't stay with him for the long time -- for the long run. I had just started my job as a member of congress and how do you -- planning like I think with any victim in an abusive relationship, that process of actually leaving is very difficult. So when I finally did, he made good on his promise. Did you know what he meant by ruin you? I had a feeling, yeah, I had a feeling. Listen, when the relationship started -- and it's wrong. It's wrong that it started in the first place. Which one? The one with my -- The menage a trois, is that the one you're referring to? That's the one I'm referring to. She loves to speak French. It's her thing. Titillating to the press. You didn't think that he would send the pictures out. I didn't think he would send the pictures out, out of respect for her if not for me. Sunny, you have a local note. Representatives for your estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, told ABC news he denies the allegations. Quote, Ms. Hill has made no allegations of abuse in her petition for dissolution. Mr. Heslep denies any allegations of abuse or wrongdoing. The parties are currently in the process of negotiating an amicable settlement. Let me respond to that because once I saw that response yesterday, a couple things. The first is that he actually filed the petition for dissolution, so, no, I have not made any allegations of abuse and also California is a no fault state so why would I have wanted to open that up when it wasn't Jermaine to anything and this was back in June. I left in June for real. So of course there was no claims of that in my nonexistent petition for dissolution. Then the second piece about it being an amicable attempt at resolution, I have been trying since day one to resolve this without using crazy attorneys' fees and going through the horrible process that everyone has become more and more familiar with from a marriage story if they haven't gone through it themselves. But it certainly has not been amicable and trying to come to some kind of resolution on it is far different than it being amicable. I think any revenge porn of any kind of horrific. I've interviewed many women who have been victims and I think there should be laws everywhere that it should be illegal because I think it's very dangerous and can ruin a lot of people's lives. I have compassion for you and I didn't think it was right for those photos to be published anywhere. I think my problem is that you were running for congress and you were sleeping with a member of your staff. I think that in this era it's sort of naive to think that if you were doing something like that that someone wouldn't find out and it wouldn't be a salacious scandal. I know that you think it was poor judgment in hindsight but nothing stays hidden in politics, so why would you take that risk? It didn't happen in a way that you were conscience -- I knew from the very beginning that it was a risk but I would say that I was in the middle of a tumultuous relationship in an incredibly stressful time working with an incredibly close team in the trenches with them and a relationship formed that shouldn't have formed. I'm very well aware of that and I believe I've taken full accountable by stepping down. I've been asked over and over do you regret stepping down? Do you think that with everything that's going on should you have stepped down? I say, well, I have a lot of reasons that I stepped down but one of the biggest is I can take the question off the table of whether I should or shouldn't be able to set this example. So my -- yeah, I would say I was always afraid of it but I was -- you end up in those kinds of situations and it just was sort of what happened. I guess my question is, why did you feel it necessary to step down? We see so many people who do things and wait it out, particularly now. Look, you were accused. Your husband also accused you of having an affair with a congressional staffer. You've denied that, but that's against house rules. There was an ethics investigation opened up. What has happened with that ethics investigation, and is that the ethics investigation what led you to resign? No, no. The ethics investigation -- it's funny, there's such slow processes but it's incredibly invasive to my staff and to my entire office. So the ethics investigation continues even after you leave? No. When you leave it stops. It's not something -- that was not why I resigned. It's also something that I'm glad I was able to take the pressure off of my staff by resigning so that they didn't have to worry about that. But why did I decide to step down? I realize the impact that I was having on my colleagues. I did not want to be a distraction during the time that we were coming up on the impeachment inquiry vote. I didn't want to be used as a tool against my fellow freshmen who were coming from these swing districts. Already there were trackers who were plopped out in front of capitol hill and they were asking my fellow freshmen, many of whom I consider friends and who have tough races, what do you think about Katie hill? Are you going to condemn her? Are you going to ask her to step down? They don't want to be put in that situation. It's interesting though that Nancy Pelosi told you not to step down. Yeah, yeah. She usually knows what she's talking about. Yeah. I mean she -- She's afraid of losing a seat I guess, right? I don't know. I think she -- more of the senior members who have seen scandal after scandal after scandal that have not resulted in resignation, there have been far fewer women who have been involved in the scandals. Just because there's far fewer women that have been in office, but they have usually taken the stance until recently that you ride it out and the voters decide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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