Ray Downs

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, center, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 2016. Heitkamp is seeking re-election in November. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 16 (UPI) — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., issued an apology Tuesday after publishing a newspaper campaign ad that used the names of sexual assault and domestic violence victims without their permission.

The ad was an open letter to Heitkamp’s opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., that criticized his statements in favor of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It then used the names of more than 120 women, with the statement: “We are all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape. We are all North Dakotans. We are all prairie tough.”

But after the ad appeared in print, several women took to social media to say that they didn’t give permission to use their names. Several women listed said they were not victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and others said they didn’t support Heitkamp.

“A lot of these people, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted,” Kady Miller, one of the women listed, wrote on Facebook. “I don’t even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am a domestic abuse survivor. Should this even be legal?? Using people’s names as part of your campaign?”

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Heitkamp issued an apology after the mistake was realized.

“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,” Heitkamp said. “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.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have used the snafu to further criticize Heitkamp, who faces a tough re-election and is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators heading into the November election.

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“Eager to save her failing campaign, Heidi Heitkamp has stooped to a new low,” Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Politico.

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