Democrat accidentally outs abuse survivors in attack ad against Republican, now faces lawsuit
NORTH DAKOTA, October 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – An attempt to seize the moral high ground on sexual assault blew up on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, over the weekend, thanks to a campaign ad that revealed the names of abuse survivors without their consent. She now faces a possible lawsuit.
The incumbent Heitkamp is up for reelection against GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, who has criticized the rush to accept without evidence claims like those against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“You're just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened,” Cramer told the New York Times last month, saying the women in his family “cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”
Heitkamp responded by taking out a full-page newspaper ad in several North Dakota newspapers, for an open letter signed by over 125 people. “We are here to let you know that you are wrong – this is not ‘a movement toward victimization’ [but] about being a survivor,” the letter claimed. “You will never know what it feels like to be so personally violated, to have someone take what seems like everything from you – and to never have justice or peace of mind.”
“We are all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape. We are all North Dakotans. We are all prairie tough,” the letter concluded.
Soon after the ad was published, however, several of the women listed as signatories went on social media to announce they weren’t actually abuse victims, didn’t support Heitkamp, and/or never gave permission to publicize their names, Townhall reports.
“A lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted,” Kady Miller wrote. “I don’t even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am not a domestic abuse survivor.”
"This is completely unprofessional," Keeley Beck said. “I want justice for myself and others who were illegally used and taken advantage of for corrupt, infactual [sic], political propaganda.”
“I’m furious. I know I’m not the only woman hurt by this,” Lexi Zhorela, a 24-year-old hairdresser and single mother, told the Associated Press. “I have only shared my story with a couple of people in confidence,” she said. “I didn’t want it blasted for the world to see.” She added that she was going to vote for the Democrat but “definitely” won’t now.
“Our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing to sign the letter or share their story,” Heitkamp explained in an apology statement to ABC News. “We recently discovered that several of the women's names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse.”
“I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again,” Heitkamp said.
Her campaign has not elaborated on how the blunder happened, but says an unnamed staffer who helped compile the names is “no longer with the campaign.”
The Democrat's mistake did not go unnoticed by Republicans.
This “revictimization of victims” is “what happens when desperate people do things for their own personal political gain,” Cramer told the AP. “She proved a point that her personal politics matter more than someone’s personal pain.”
"This is another example of Heidi Heitkamp exploiting whoever she can for political gain," North Dakota GOP communications director Jake Wilkins told ABC. "With a campaign built on lies, misinformation, and manufactured controversy, it’s no wonder Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Senator in the country."
Heitkamp is a pro-abortion Democrat who opposed Kavanaugh and was seen high-fiving Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in January after voting against a ban on late-term abortion. Last month, Cramer highlighted the incident in a campaign ad featuring his pregnant daughter Annie.
"We support our dad's strong commitment to life, Heidi Heitkamp disagrees,” her sister Rachel said. “She looked like she was celebrating, late term abortion, can you imagine?” Annie asked.