Senator Heitkamp Needs to Be Clear About How Her Campaign Re-Victimized Those Sexual Assault Victims


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who is seeking re-election in November, in Rutland, N.D., Oct. 7, 2018. In North Dakota and other farm states, the partisan divide over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has nationalized the fight for the Senate, elating Republicans and worrying Democrats. (Annie Flanagan/The New York Times)

Last night we learned that Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign had fired a staffer involved in that now infamous “open letter” ad which identified perhaps as many as two dozen sexual assault survivors who didn’t give their permission to be identified.

Heitkamp says the termination is just the beginning of her review into what happened, but she’s also not naming the staffer terminated, which isn’t a good sign for those of us hoping for transparency and accountability in this matter:

This isn’t good enough.

Senator Heitkamp should name the staffer terminated. If she wants us to believe that she’s taking this seriously, that she’s committed to attempting to make this right, then she needs to be transparent. Quietly letting some unnamed member of her campaign staff go doesn’t cut it.

The victims of Heitkamp’s disastrous campaign ad are making noises about litigation. Normally one might expect that to make Heitkamp and her campaign reticent to be transparent about details, but during my interview with Heitkamp yesterday she, to her credit, didn’t let the question of litigation deter her from taking responsibility. “Some people who are lawyers would say the worst thing you can do if you’re worried about lawsuits is admit culpability or negligence and I’m admitting it right here,” she told me. “This is a very flagrant error of the campaign and I own it.”

The Senator needs to back that sentiment up with action.

Name the staffer, and make good on the details about how those names came to be in that ad sooner rather than later.

This issue speaks to Heitkamp’s competence. It speaks to her character and judgment. Those are all factors North Dakota voters, who are already in the process of casting their ballots, must consider when making a decision in the Senate race.

It is incumbent upon Heitkamp to inform those considerations honestly and quickly.