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News Every Day |

Noem in political freefall as book inaccuracies emerge following dog killing backlash



South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was in political freefall Friday as embarrassing revelations continued to emerge from the scrutiny of advance copies of her memoir, which doesn’t officially publish until Tuesday.

Noem was already reeling from near-universal backlash against her disclosure in the book that she shot and killed a dog named Cricket and a billy goat years ago — the dog for its failures on a hunting excursion and its attacks on a neighbor’s chickens, and the goat for chasing after Noem’s children and smelling bad.

Thursday and Friday, news emerged from outlets including Politico and The Dakota Scout of inaccuracies in Noem’s book, the title of which — “No Going Back” — is now ripe with irony. The most glaring inaccuracy is Noem’s recounting of a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un during her time in Congress — a meeting that never happened.

“I remember when I met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un,” Noem wrote. “I’m sure he underestimated me, having no clue about my experience staring down little tyrants (I’d been a children’s pastor, after all).”

The Dakota Scout published a story Thursday casting doubt on the meeting. Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, eventually said the anecdote was one of “two small errors” in the book that were the fault of others.

“This has been communicated to the ghostwriter and editor,” Fury said, according to the Scout. “Kim Jong Un was included in a list of world leaders and shouldn’t have been.”

Yet there seems to be no way Noem could’ve been unaware of the errors. She’s been promoting the book for weeks, there is no other writer credited in the book besides her, and she’s already voiced an audio version of the book.

The Scout also questioned Noem’s anecdote in the book about canceling a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron over Noem’s dislike of his comments about the Israeli-Hamas war. The French president’s office released a statement that Macron had never extended a “direct invitation” to Noem for a meeting, the Scout reported, but the office left open the possibility that the two could have been scheduled to attend the same event.

Politico reported on a story Noem related in the book about a 2021 conversation with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Noem wrote that Haley, who would go on to unsuccessfully seek the Republican presidential nomination, “threatened” Noem politically. A spokesperson for Haley told Politico that Haley had called to encourage Noem, and “how she would twist that into a threat is just plain weird.”

Politico also reported that a Colorado county Republican group canceled a Saturday fundraiser Noem was scheduled to headline, after the group received death threats and information about a planned protest related to Noem’s treatment of animals.

Reacting to the cascade of negative news, political science professor Jon Schaff of Northern State University in Aberdeen said Noem’s short-term national ambitions “have been weakened, considerably.” Until recently, Noem had been widely considered to be a potential running mate for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

But Schaff said it’s too early to tell what it all means for Noem long-term. He said she is popular in South Dakota, and it would be naive to count her out in future races, such as a U.S. Senate race in the eventuality of a retirement by Sen. John Thune or Sen. Mike Rounds. Thune is 63 years old, Rounds is 69 and Noem is 52.

“Rounds and Thune won’t be there forever,” Schaff said.

Meanwhile, Dan Ahlers, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said the negative news is unlikely to end Noem’s career, given that past scandals have not seemed to hurt her. Those scandals have included published allegations of an affair with former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski, accusations of misusing the state airplane, and allegedly intervening to help her daughter earn a real estate appraiser’s license.

“These things don’t end any of these Republican politicians’ careers anymore,” Ahlers said. “They end up raising more money and smelling like roses.”

Noem went on “Hannity” on Fox News on Wednesday and blamed “fake news” for the fallout from the dog and goat stories. This weekend, she’s scheduled to attend a Trump campaign donor retreat in Florida, according to Politico. Sunday, she’s scheduled to appear on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

“We’ll get into the controversies surrounding her upcoming memoir,” said a Friday tweet from the show.

South Dakota Searchlight is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. South Dakota Searchlight maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Seth Tupper for questions: info@southdakotasearchlight.com. Follow South Dakota Searchlight on Facebook and Twitter.

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