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GOP Senate nominee calls #MeToo a “movement toward victimization”

Rep. Kevin Cramer is looking to unseat Heidi Heitkamp in the upcoming US Senate race for North Dakota.

President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Meetings At Trump Tower
Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota leaves Trump Tower on December 5, 2016, in New York City. 
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Only a day after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a deeply divided vote, Rep. Kevin Cramer, the Republican nominee looking to unseat North Dakota’s vulnerable Democratic incumbent in the Senate, said #MeToo is a “movement toward victimization.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Cramer suggested he’s leading the polls against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent, because North Dakotans approve of his ability to say “what a lot of other people don’t dare say — but think.” When asked by reporter Jonathan Martin about what he meant, Cramer alluded to the #MeToo era.

“That you’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened,” Cramer said, taking a stab at the wave of women who have recently come forward with claims of sexual misconduct and, specifically, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s. “The world got to see close up how ugly it can be when you go too far.”

Heitkamp, one of 10 Democratic senators defending a seat in a red state, is considered the most vulnerable incumbent in 2018. Yet she still opposed confirming Kavanaugh in a decisive vote that may cost her the seat next month.

She defended that decision and angrily rejected Cramer’s dismissive comments in her own interview with the Times on Sunday, referencing her own experience working and living with survivors.

“It did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim,” Heitkamp said while in Rutland, North Dakota, her voice reportedly thick with emotion. “She got stronger, and she made us strong. And to suggest that this movement doesn’t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.”

Heitkamp added that she has spent the “better part” of her political and legal career listening to victims of sexual misconduct, and she asked Martin, the Times reporter, if he’d asked Cramer how many survivors he’d had conversations with in his life.

In a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday, Heitkamp further justified her vote against Kavanaugh as based on both her experience working with domestic assault victims and on Kavanaugh’s “anger and combativeness” during his testimony.

Cramer doesn’t just mirror Trump in his public comments — they’re also political twins

Ever since winning the Republican nod to oppose Heitkamp, Cramer has repeatedly made headlines over his inflammatory views, including on the Kavanaugh hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In September, he called Ford’s allegations “even more absurd” than Anita Hill’s against Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, and later defended those comments in a TV interview by saying, “We don’t know that even what she described happened.”

It’s not clear whether those headline-grabbing comments have helped as much as Cramer thinks, but they haven’t harmed him much, either: The most recent poll shows Heitkamp trailing him by double digits, all in a state that Trump carried by 36 points in the 2016 election.

What’s more, Heitkamp has had a tumultuous relationship with Trump. She was an avid advocate of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, saying she “transcends gender” and would make an “excellent president.” She has also pushed against Trump on several key votes throughout his tenure, including the tax reform bill and his multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

On the other hand, Cramer has been a close Trump ally. He has influenced several environmental decisions the president has made as his energy adviser, including pulling the United States out of the international Paris climate agreement. Cramer has sided with the president on 98.9 percent of votes that have been brought to the House floor, opposing Trump’s stance only on a single bill.

Heitkamp and Cramer were set to have a debate Friday, which was canceled following the Senate’s vote on Kavanaugh. Their next debate is scheduled for October 18 in Bismarck, sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association.