Heitkamp Campaign Owes Women Answers
Heitkamp Campaign Owes Women Answers
Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota was already looking at losing her Senate race. Now she is facing a future of political radioactivity, after outing abuse victims in a campaign ad. Now, at least one of the women named is afraid for her safety.
As Amanda wrote earlier, the Heitkamp campaign largely imploded when it ran an ad that contained names of women that were supposed to be survivors of sexual abuse, who had not consented to be publicly named in this ad. Also included in the ad were names of women who say they were never abused or victimized – and they want some answers from the campaign. Even though Heidi Heitkamp is contacting people personally, she doesn’t seem to be very forthcoming about how this colossal screw-up happened in the first place.
“A lot of women’s privacy was just thrown out there for the world to see,” said Keeley Beck, a 24-year old from Bismarck, North Dakota who said she never gave consent to be included in the ad. “You don’t really know what situation people are in, so that could have caused a lot of damage to a lot of people.”
Beck, a mother of one who is getting married next month, was waiting to hear from Heitkamp before she used the campaign misstep to pass judgment on the senator.
The two talked on Tuesday afternoon, in what Beck described as a “short, sweet and to the point” conversation.
“She was apologetic, but she didn’t have answers for me,” Beck reflected. “I feel like she has plenty of time to say something or to give me something.”
That is not good enough, say some of the others who were named.
One group of a dozen women — led by Shylah Forde, Megan Stoltz and Alexandria Delzer, three of the misidentified women — told CNN on Tuesday evening that they are looking for “a lawyer who will take our case” because the ad has “interfered with, or downright ruined, our lives.”
They wrote: “Survivors of assault who had taken care to avoid the subject were suddenly bombarded by questions asking them to explain to their loved ones why their name appeared on this list. Women who have never been assaulted spent the day reassuring loved ones of their safety.”
“Our privacy was violated on this day, and we deserve closure,” they added.
What the women want more than anything, they said, is answers.
According to more than a dozen interviews with women impacted by this controversy, the growing consensus is that someone pulled names from a Facebook post and added them to the open letter to Cramer without getting consent.
Delzer posted a call to action on her Facebook page, asking for women to be part of a “letter being circulated among survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and rape responding to Cramer’s comments.”
“We are looking for women are willing to sign there (sic) name (or initials) and list their hometown in North Dakota to include as part of the letter/ad,” reads the post, that ended by telling readers another woman would validate all signatures that ended up on the open letter.
Below the post, Delzer tagged 12 other women in one comment and another 12 in a subsequent comment. All 24 women appeared on the open letter to Cramer, most in the same exact order they appeared in Delzer’s comments.
“I am kind of confused about how this all happened after I tagged my friends in a post,” Delzer told CNN. “All I did was share the post on Facebook and I tagged some of my Facebook friends on Facebook and someone, no one will tell me who, took the names that I tagged and put them in the letter.”
She added: “I just now feel like my name is being dragged through the mud. I just don’t know how it got to this point.”
Delzer also spoke with Heitkamp on Tuesday. “She seemed pretty sincere about apologizing,” Delzer said, but didn’t provide her with any answers.
She added, dejected: “All I did was share a Facebook post.”
That has led these women to believe that someone who remains nameless took those names posted by Delzer and added them to the letter without mistakenly and, in some cases, without asking for their approval.
There’s no confirmation that this is what happened, but a nameless staffer has indeed either been fired or opted to resign in the midst of this.
But that can’t possibly be the end of this, especially when the terrible reality is that the Heitkamp campaign has definitely put women at risk.
She says she's terrified for her safety like many other victims because of this situation.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) October 18, 2018
How did the Heitkamp campaign not have a lawyer, or someone with a modicum of good sense, look at this ad and say, “hey, do we have permission from all these women to use their names?” Or even, “who wrote and sourced this ad?” Someone? Anyone? This did not happen in a vacuum. One single staffer cannot be the sole person responsible for this. It was written. It was formatted. It got approved. It was submitted for print. How many eyes saw this and didn’t ask any questions?
In the end, Heitkamp is the one making the apologies, losing the race, and most likely never being involved in politics from now on out. And if the women involved do get legal representation, there will most likely be a very large settlement involved. Someday, the Heitkamp campaign’s dangerous mistake will be studied in political science classes under the category “Things You Cannot Do In Campaign Ads.” But in the meantime, they owe the women involved more than an apology. After such a gross violation of privacy, they deserve an explanation of how this happened, so it can serve as a warning for all political campaigns and staffers to never repeat these mistakes.
Featured image: Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), screenshot via CBS News video