In her zeal to use the #MeToo movement against her Republican opponent, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-ND) campaign placed an ad purporting to be from victims of sexual assault calling out challenger Kevin Cramer for being insensitive.
But several of the women named in the ad say they did not consent to having their name used in this manner, and at least one says she isn’t even a victim.
The ad, which ran in several North Dakota newspapers including the Bismarck Tribune and the Wahpeton Daily News, was framed as an “open letter” to Rep. Cramer, criticizing his comments that the #MeToo movement was “a movement toward victimization.”
“We are here to let you know that we have all suffered from domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape – and that yes, we expect somebody to believe us when we say it,” the letter states. A disclaimer that this was paid for by the Heitkamp for Senate campaign is featured at the bottom of the letter.
Shortly after the ad ran, women who say they were named as signers began posting on Facebook that the campaign did not have their permission to publish their information. (Note: The Daily Wire will not post their names since that would be no different than what Heitkamp has done.)
One woman posted in a Facebook group for Bismarck, ND, news that not only did she not give permission for her name to be used by the campaign, but that she doesn’t support Heitkamp and is not even a domestic abuse survivor.
“This was posted in the Bismarck Tribune,” The woman says in her post, which contained a photo of the ad. “A lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted. I don’t even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am not a domestic abuse survivor. Should this even be legal?? Using people’s names as part of your campaign??”
Another woman said the campaign was “literally sharing false information.” She wrote a response to the campaign saying she “NEVER gave my consent or permission, written or verbal, to be involved in anything like this: for, against, or personally affected.” She also said some of the names are spelled wrong and that some are listed twice.
A third woman also said her name was used without her permission, and that she was “FURIOUS” for being included. She said using their names in this way has made them a “target” for their abusers who have seen the list and assumed they told somebody.
A fourth woman said she was “DISGUSTED” that her name was used because she “did not give any sort of permission for you to put my name in this.”
Rob Port, who runs a North Dakota blog called Say Anything, posted screenshots of posts from women who took issue with the Heitkamp campaign. He said he contacted two of the women who said their names were used without their permission.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Heitkamp apologized for the ad and would issue a retraction and personal apology to each person it hurt.
Sexual assault is a serious crime – and one that too many North Dakota women have experienced. In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and push back against dismissive comments toward sexual assault survivors by Kevin Cramer, our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing to sign the letter or share their story. 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.
Update: In a statement sent to The Daily Wire, the North Dakota Republican Party's communications director, Jake Wilkins, criticized the Heitkamp campaign.
"This is another example of Heidi Heitkamp exploiting whoever she can for political gain," Wilkins said. "With a campaign built on lies, misinformation, and manufactured controversy, it’s no wonder Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Senator in the country."