South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s reelection campaign released an advertisement claiming the Republican has “never backed down” from defending women’s sports after she refused to sign a bill that would have prevented men from competing with women.
When questioned about the new ad, Noem’s campaign manager Joe Desilets told The Federalist: “Back in the spring, the Governor wanted changes to the bill that passed the South Dakota legislature. She felt it wasn’t strong enough and wouldn’t hold up in court. She used the South Dakota Governor’s ability to make ‘style and form’ revisions to legislation to strengthen the bill and then the legislature failed to pass the strengthened bill.”
Yet an in-depth examination of the proposed policy and Noem’s alleged concerns at the time revealed that her “style and form” changes gutted the protections for female athletes. That is the very public criticism to which this ad tacitly responds. At the time, Noem claimed to be motivated by a desire to avoid frivolous lawsuits pertaining to an unrelated section of the bill.
The governor’s new messaging campaign expands her inconsistencies and outright falsehoods on the issue. Although Noem initially publicly stated that she was “excited” to sign the bill, after she quickly reversed herself she claimed she had never planned to sign it in the first place.
Desilets also claimed, “Governor Noem has always led from the front on this issue” in an attempt to resurrect the Republican’s image after she very publicly capitulated to woke corporate pressure. In an effort to prove that claim, Desilets made further false statements on the governor’s behalf. Those include his claim in the emailed statement, “Back in 2017, long before the Federalist or anyone else was talking about this issue, Governor Noem defended girls’ rodeo competition when groups were clamoring to mix boys and girls in competition.”
A one-minute search of The Federalist’s site would demonstrate this is false. Three years earlier in 2014, for example, The Federalist unequivocally rebuked the transgender lobby’s attempt to endanger women by outlawing sex distinctions in Minnesota high school sports, to the dismay of the leftist attack organization Media Matters. The Federalist also defended women from transgender policies on numerous different occasions long before 2017.
Rather than “lead from the front” on behalf of her constituents, during the 2021 legislative fight over the bill Noem vetoed it was revealed that several of her advisors represented corporate interests who lobbied for a veto of the popular bill. One such advisor was Matt McCaulley, a lobbyist whose clients include Sanford Health, which performs transgender mutilations on minors.
Sanford Health is also the owner of Sanford Sports Complex, which competes to hold NCAA tournaments. NCAA has threatened states that protect women from unfair male competition. Noem explicitly cited those threats as a reason to veto the bill safeguarding women’s sports in 2021. It’s unclear why that concern she alleged earlier no longer applies, unless the NCAA hasn’t changed its stance, and Noem has.
Noem’s chief of staff at the time of her veto, Tony Venhuizen, was on the board of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, which The Federalist reported had listed the defeat of the bill as a “tier 1” priority of “the highest importance.” Noem has now appointed Venhuizen to the South Dakota Board of Regents in charge of the state’s public universities, which include many students that could be affected by failing to protect women from male sports competitors.
Desilets declined to take direct questions about the Noem campaign’s portrayal of her record in a phone call, instead emailing the factually challenged statement quoted above.
After receiving heavy criticism for betraying her voters and South Dakota minors in 2021, Noem complained she was the victim of a “conservative cancel culture” while she continued to provide factually inaccurate explanations for her rejection of the bill. She portrayed criticism of her failure to advance her voters’ priorities as unfair and refused to answer fact-based questions about her record and rationale for the veto.
Now, as Noem campaigns for reelection against a primary challenger from the right, her campaign has released an advertisement that refers to the governor’s leadership as “steady” and falsely claims “Noem has been protecting girl’s sports for years and never backed down.”