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ND-Sen: Victims furious after Heidi Heitkamp campaign identifies abuse survivors in ad

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is in hot water after her campaign misidentified victims of abuse, and printed the names publicly in several newspapers. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) issued an apology Tuesday after wrongly publishing women's names in an open letter to her GOP challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).

The full-page ad — published in several North Dakota newspapers Sunday — was aimed at shaming Cramer for recent comments he made about the #MeToo movement. However, it included the names of women who had not given their consent to be publicly exposed — and others who weren't victims at all.

What are the details?

Last week, The New York Times reported that Cramer said the women in his family "cannot understand this movement toward victimization," referring to the #MeToo movement. Cramer said of his wife, daughters, mother, and mother-in-law, "They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough."

In response to Cramer's comments, the Heitkamp campaign issued the letter condemning his comments and included the names of 127 signatories who were purportedly victims of sexual assault, violence, or rape. But some of the women named have come forward with outrage that their names were listed as signors, because they had no knowledge of the letter prior to it being published.

The Daily Wire reported that one of those named, Kady Miller, posted pictures of the letter in a private Bismarck Facebook group, saying, "This was posted in the Bismarck Tribune. I know 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, Lexi Zhorela, told The Associated Press that she found out she was listed in the letter because one of her Facebook friends had tagged her in a post who was aware that she was a sexual assault victim.

"I'm furious," Zhorela said, "I know I'm not the only woman hurt by this. I have only shared my story with a couple of people in confidence. I didn't want it blasted for the world to see."

How did the candidates respond?

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Heitkamp apologized in a statement on Tuesday, admitting that her campaign discovered "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."

Heitkamp's statement went on to say, "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."

Cramer told the AP in response, "This is what happens when desperate people do things for their own personal political gain. [Heitkamp] proved a point that her personal politics matter more than someone's personal pain." He called the ad a "re-victimization of victims."

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