One would think that if you’re a U.S. Congressman who insulted your state’s largest minority population and threatened bodily injury to their Tribally-elected leaders while in the process of verbally assaulting a Native American woman at a very public state coalition meeting for Abused Women’s Services that you would apologize. That would be the smart, decent thing to do, right? Apparently North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer doesn’t think so. On March 26, 2013, he spent nearly half an hour laying into Melissa Merrick, the Director of the Spirit Lake Victim Assistance Program. She’s also a tribal member who happens to be a survivor of child sexual abuse. During that time, Cramer reportedly stated in front of a roomful of domestic violence advocates that he wanted to “wring the Spirit Lake tribal council’s necks and slam them against the wall.” He also called tribal governments dysfunctional, and went on a tirade against provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that are meant to protect Native American women. His tantrum was so disturbing that attendees at the meeting got up and left. By the time the dust settled, another Native American woman present was in tears.
Cramer had no problem addressing the media once the story broke- but instead of apologizing for his verbal attack and decidedly inappropriate behavior, he took the opportunity to reiterate his anger towards North Dakota tribes and personally assail Ms. Merrick even further, at one point saying “once a victim, always a victim” about her on a news program broadcast out of Fargo, N.D. Furthermore, Cramer, to this day, has never denied that he threatened tribal leaders with physical violence.
North Dakota tribes were outraged. They responded to the incident via press releases asking for a formal apology from Representative Cramer, and requesting a meeting with him. So far, those pleas have gone unanswered.