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Dear Kristi Noem: Criticizing Cowardly Politicians Isn’t ‘Cancel Culture,’ It’s Democracy

Instead of coming to terms with the fact that Noem’s conservative base is furious, the governor’s office maintains their voter base is just simply “uninformed.”


South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem thinks that facing opposition and criticism from her conservative base after she refused to sign a bill protecting women’s sports is “cancel culture.” This claim is merely a mask for the fact that a once-up-and-coming politician favored for a national stage is learning that her actions have consequences, especially when she backtracks on her word.

In a recent statement, Noem’s communications director Ian Fury argued that watering down the South Dakota legislature’s bill to protect girls sports is the way to fight vicious conservative cancel mobs, many of which, he claims, are “uninformed” about Noem’s reasoning for rejecting and sending it back to the GOP-controlled state legislature.

“Apparently, uninformed cancel culture is fine when the right is eating their own,” the statement said. “A less impassioned review of the facts tells a much different story. Governor Noem has long stood for fairness in women’s sports.”

Instead of coming to terms with the fact that Noem’s conservative base is furious with her recent backtracking and sudden lack of eagerness to sign the important bill, the governor’s office maintains that the most “strategic” way to confront the legislation is to avoid “waging a losing battle with the NCAA,” a talking point already refuted multiple times by legal experts on the record, and launching a pseudo-campaign marketed as taking a “smart approach” to defending Title IX and honoring science in sports.

Noem cites a mysterious group of “renowned conservative legal experts,” as the reason for this “smart approach,” but her office and Fury refuse to release the names of these experts.

Her attempts to pretend that she resisted “tremendous pressure from corporate bigwigs and the radical left alike to veto the bill” continue to fall short as more evidence that her inner circle, including her chief of staff Tony Venhuizen, a lawyer who also sits on the board of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and Matt McCaulley, a lawyer and lobbyist whose “clients include Sanford Health, which owns Sanford Sports Complex, a Sioux Falls arena that hopes to lure NCAA tourneys” heavily influenced her decision to abandon this culture war fight.

All of a sudden, as the “fundamental protections to pass and to survive a legal challenge” that Noem claims to proudly stand by are criticized from all angles, the governor’s office began hurling insults at its own party and voter base with the hopes that playing the victim of “cancel culture” will suddenly alleviate the pressure.

“Unfortunately, conservatives have been sold down the river by politicians all too many times. And the immediate assumption was that this was just more of the same. But why would the Governor who stood strong during COVID cave on such a fundamental issue? Answer: she wouldn’t, and she didn’t,” her office said, clinging to the hope that the GOP base would reevaluate their positions once they heard the governor’s rhetoric again.

“If conservative media would take 5 seconds to read past the knee-jerk headlines and actually understand Governor Noem’s position, they’d come to a very different realization,” her office complained, as they repeated the same talking points the governor used during her interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. Noem referenced an irrelevant decision about 4-H competitions and claiming that “legal scholars have told me for many, many months” that the bill would lose in court, despite her recent tweet signaling her intent to make the bill a law.

Noem is not at risk of getting “canceled,” she’s merely experiencing the consequences of having a ideologically-driven voter base that knows caving in the face of corporate pressure makes you a worthless standard-bearer. And when your voter base criticizes your actions, that’s not “cancel culture,” that’s democracy.

The worst part, however, is that Noem is refusing to own up to her mistake. She’s hiding behind fake campaigns to promote fairness in women’s sports when she could simply sign the bill that would accomplish just that. Her office is also refusing to release the names of the legal experts that she claims to have based her decision around, masking exactly who continues to advise her contrary to what her own state’s legislature, informed by named legal experts, suggested.