Heitkamp Campaign Launches Internal Investigation

In continuing coverage: Yesterday Senator Heidi Heitkamp apologized after a newspaper campaign ad ran the names of 127 women, calling them sexual assault survivors.

We sat down with the Senator and one of the women who didn’t expect to see her name appear in the paper.

The woman included in Heitkamp’s ad, Shylah Forde says, “Basically my first reaction was shock.”

She is a mother of two, a nanny and a lifelong Mandan resident, but she has never been a victim of sexual assault, violence or rape.

Forde explains, “October 9th, I was tagged in a Facebook post. And I read it, and I thought that was it. Well, somebody took our names from the tag in the Facebook post, and I believe that’s how I got mixed up in all this.”

The Senator said Tuesday that she’s working on an internal investigation to find out how these women were listed without their consent.

Senator Heitkamp adds, “This is totally unacceptable. It is at best sloppy, at worst: very, very serious negligence. And we’re going to get to the bottom of it by calling the women and finding out what the contacts were.”

The Senator says she doesn’t want to diminish the message behind the letter. 

She explains, “Many women reached out to us and said what can we do to push back against Congressman Cramer’s statement. We decided that the best way is to inform him that there are brave women who are willing to step forward and not victimized. Unfortunately, that message has gotten lost in this whole terrible mistake.” 

Forde says, “I know that it is not personally Heidi’s fault. I know it’s somebody underneath her that made a huge mistake, and I know she feels really, really bad about it. However, it did still happen, and here we are.”

Forde is among several women pursuing legal action against Senator Heitkamp and her campaign.

She shares, “One of my friends actually had a stranger comment on one of her daughter’s photos on Facebook, ‘Sorry you were raped.’ So we’re having all sorts of different forms of harassment and embarrassment.”

The women plan to sue for damages. 

Heitkamp says the person who was responsible for validating the names was fired.

Forde is planning on voting in November. She says she had not decided who to vote for yet, and the letter does not make up her mind.

Senator Heitkamp is working to call everyone that was inappropriately listed in the ad.

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