Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said Tuesday her re-election campaign would retract an advertisement it placed in a series of North Dakota newspapers that identified domestic violence, sexual abuse, and rape victims without their consent, while misidentifying others.
“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 in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
"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," she said. "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."
The advertisement, which ran Sunday, took the form of an open letter to Rep. Kevin Cramer, the Republican challenging Heitkamp to represent North Dakota in the Senate, criticizing him for comments he made while Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process was roiled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Heitkamp declined to vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the bench.
The open letter was signed by 125 people, although some just indicated their apparent support with their initials, according to the Associated Press.
Heitkamp's campaign would not confirm with the AP how many people were impacted by the mistake or how it occurred in the first place.
Cramer told the AP the ad represented a “revictimization of victims.”
Jake Wilkins, communications director for the GOP in North Dakota, told the Washington Examiner the incident was "another example" of Heitkamp "exploiting whoever she can for political gain."
"With a campaign built on lies, misinformation, and manufactured controversy, it’s no wonder Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Senator in the country," Wilkins said in a statement.