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Noem’s book tour sees her take fire from conservatives as well as liberals

todayMay 10, 2024 2

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is drawing fire from every corner of the media following the launch of her book, which sparked backlash over multiple anecdotes recounted in its pages.

Noem, who has long been considered a front-runner to be former President Trump’s running mate, drew immediate, fierce criticism over stories she told involving Kim Jong Un and her decision to shoot and kill her dog.

The governor made the rounds over the past week defending what she wrote, though it has done little to quash the blowback — and likely made it worse. Even more notable is the fact much of it is coming from conservative media outlets, like Fox News and Newsmax, underscoring just how damaging this week has been for her.

“When you’re a right-of-center candidate, officeholder, and you’ve lost Fox News and everyone on their platforms, it’s not a good thing,” said Republican strategist Dave Carney.

With Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence in a seemingly permanent estrangement over Pence’s refusal to reject the certification of President Biden’s victory, Noem was seen as a top choice to be Trump’s new running mate and was on his short list in recent months. 

In a sign of her growing popularity among the grassroots, she tied with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February as the top choice for Trump’s No. 2. 

But Noem soon found herself in the center of a firestorm as excerpts of her book were released in the past couple weeks, first revealing the incident of killing her 14-month-old dog over poor behavior, which was heavily criticized.

Controversy continued after scrutiny was raised about Noem’s story involving a meeting with the North Korean dictator while she served on the House Armed Services Committee. 

The passage detailing the meeting was eventually removed from the book, with a spokesperson saying Kim was “included in a list of world leaders and shouldn’t have been.” 

As the publication date approached, Noem embarked on an extensive media tour to promote the book, titled “No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward.” But the interviews — done with media outlets across the political spectrum — were largely filled with questions about those controversial anecdotes. 

Noem has sought to portray her story of shooting the dog as showing leadership skills and a willingness to take necessary steps to defend her family. 

“What I learned from my years of public service, especially leading South Dakota through COVID, is people are looking for leaders who are authentic, willing to learn from the past, and don’t shy away from tough challenges,” she said in a post on the social platform X. 

But her explanations have not seemed to go over well with those who have interviewed her and with politicians from the left and right. 

In one intense exchange with Fox Business host Stuart Varney from Tuesday, the anchor repeatedly pressed her on whether she believes the story is hurting her chances of being chosen as Trump’s running mate. 

Noem avoided directly commenting on the impact of her being chosen, but Varney continued to ask if Trump has brought up the dog story in conversations they have had. 

“Enough, Stuart. This interview is ridiculous, what you are doing right now,” Noem said. “So, you need to stop. It is. It is. Let’s talk about some real topics that Americans care about.” 

She also took part on Monday in a strained interview with NewsNation, The Hill’s sister news organization, in which anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked if she actually met with Kim. 

“When this was brought to my attention, I immediately took actions and asked to have his name removed,” Noem said, but she dodged follow-ups from Vargas as to whether the story was true. 

“This is something I think I’m not going to talk about,” she responded. “I don’t talk about personal meetings with world leaders, and I’m going to continue to stay there.” 

Noem has made similar statements in response to questions from other outlets about her account of the alleged meeting, including on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. 

The governor was even pressed strongly during an interview on the right-wing news channel Newsmax by “Wake Up America” anchor Rob Finnerty, who told her he originally would have put her at the top of the list of Trump’s possible running mates before the book was released but not now, due to stories like the Kim meeting. 

When Noem responded that she had been to the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea, Finnerty asked if she “stared down Kim Jong Un” as she claimed in the book. She again responded that when she became “aware” of that anecdote, it was changed, but she again said she would not discuss meetings with world leaders. 

GOP strategist Saul Anuzis said Noem and her team “miscalculated” about how some of the stories in the book would be received by the public, and argued the truth is the best way to handle controversies like this. He said a story like the dog one may be more common in rural areas where Noem is from, but it would not come across the same way to those in urban and suburban Americans, who make up a majority of the country.

“Politically, people have to be aware of how people react to things like that, that are outside your culture or outside your norm,” he said. 

Even Megyn Kelly, one of the most high-profile conservative commentators in the U.S., waded into the controversy, accusing Noem of wanting to mislead the public in the interview with Vargas.

“She wrote it, read it, endorsed it and tried to sell it,” Kelly said, referring to the Kim story. 

The future of Noem’s book tour appears uncertain, at least for now. Fox News host Greg Gutfeld revealed on Tuesday that Noem canceled a scheduled interview, and CNN anchor Dana Bash announced during her show on Wednesday that Noem “abruptly” canceled her appearance as well. 

A spokesperson for Noem told RealClearPolitics that the governor was returning to South Dakota ahead of some upcoming storms, also canceling an interview with the outlet, which was set for Thursday. 

The Hill has reached out to Noem’s office for comment on the cancellations and whether future dates will be set for the tour. 

Carney said the country’s emotional connection to dogs and other pets can be felt just by seeing how dominant commercials for dog food and other products are on television. He said even if putting the dog down was necessary, choosing to mention the story in the book was not smart. 

He added that Noem is not making the situation better in avoiding a direct answer to the questions she has been receiving. 

“Stuart Varney is not some kind of gotcha reporter. He’s a business guy. He talks about the news,” Carney said. “You’re hostile to him. I don’t know what tone they’re trying to set, but [she] doesn’t seem to be getting the best advice.” 

Anuzis said he does not think these stories will be definitive in making up Trump’s mind on picking a running mate. But he noted Trump likely will decide based on who will help him the most — and Noem’s controversies would not be helpful, at the very least. 

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a determinative issue, but it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, when you add up all the other things that you’re looking at for his candidates,” he said.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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