Conservative group tied to major corporate interests, the American Legislative Exchange Council, gave South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem an award this week for being what they think is the “best” Governor in the country. While others point to her record as one of the country’s worst.
In 2020, during the early part of the China virus pandemic, Kristi Noem became a nationwide sensation overnight when she claimed to buck the trend of COVID shutdown orders and declared, “South Dakota is open for business.” She even claimed that South Dakota “never shut down” for COVID.
NOEM BUILT REPUTATION ON NOT SHUTTING DOWN SOUTH DAKOTA, RECORD SAYS OTHERWISE
But this claim was not true and the national mainstream conservative ecosystem refused to challenge it. It was untrue because Kristi Noem the politician had said one thing while Kristi Noem as Governor had done just the opposite.
Noem’s stump speech that she performs nationwide over the past year where she says that “in South Dakota, we never shut down,” that her staff didn’t engage in “defining what businesses were essential,” and she avoided “any shelter in place mandates.”
But the reality is different.
Christopher Vondracek in the South Dakota-based Mitchell Republic noted, “A common theme in Gov. Noem’s speeches to national audiences has been that the state remained open for business. But a flurry of executive orders, particularly over six weeks in March and April of 2020 in the pandemic’s beginning, tell a very different story.”
Noem issued nearly 30 executive orders dealing with COVID-19 throughout 2020. All of them can be found on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.
NOEM ISSUED REPEATED EXECUTIVE ORDERS TO SHUT DOWN SOUTH DAKOTA
As reported by Vondracek:
On April 6, 2020, with confirmed cases still low but officials planning for 5,000 beds and 1,300 ventilators, Noem’s team dispatched an executive order that said the governor ordered that residents 65 and older or who had an underlying health condition in two of the state’s largest counties, Minnehaha and Lincoln, which encompass Sioux Falls, “shall stay at home or a place of residence” unless working in “critical infrastructure” or conducting “essential errands.”
That same day, Noem said in a press conference, “we’re changing the ‘shoulds’ to ‘shalls’” in her executive order, meaning she was mandating compliance, just like Democrat governors who were locking down across the country.
NOEM MADE COMPLIANCE MANDATORY
This early April remain-in-place order wasn’t the only directive Noem gave the state’s residents. Throughout multiple executive orders, even as far back as March 23, the governor also delineated between “essential” and non-essential jobs, activities, and businesses in the orders from the state capitol.
NOEM PICKED BUSINESS WINNERS AND LOSERS FOR COVID-SHUTDOWN
On March 13, 2020, three days after the first known positive case was confirmed in the state, Noem ordered “non-essential” public employees to work from home.
Ten days later, an order from the governor’s office on the second floor of the Statehouse told South Dakotans to assist personnel in “essential” jobs, such as first responders.
Moreover, that same March 23 executive order told “any enclosed retail business that promotes public gatherings” — which the order defined as everything from bars to health clubs — to suspend or modify their business practices.
Even as late as April 24, Noem issued an order reemphasizing a previous order that urged “all South Dakotans” who were “particularly vulnerable to COVID-19” to stay home.
The Noem Executive Order issued April 6, 2020 was “mandatory” for two major counties representing a third of the state population, requiring that anyone over 65 and anyone who is a “vulnerable” individual “shall stay at home” and “shall wash hands often.”
NOEM SHUT STATE DOWN FOR SOUTH DAKOTA SENIORS
The order was for 3 weeks, and then reissued through May 11, 2020. On April 9, 2020, in another Executive Order from Noem, she granted the Secretary of Health broad authority over all other agencies under the guise of controlling the spread of the virus.
Before Noem’s Executive Orders on COVID were released, on March 30, 2020, Representative Lee Qualm, probably on the orders of Governor Noem, introduced House Bill 1297 which would have given full emergency shutdown powers to the Secretary of Health, for well over an entire year, until July 2021.
NOEM HAD POLITICAL ALLY INTRODUCE SHUTDOWN POWERS TO KEEP HER HANDS CLEAN
The South Dakota State House of Representatives, a body more conservative than Noem, voted 50-17 to reject the bill. This is why Noem went around them with Executive Orders.
But the national conservative media believed her statements in spite of her record.
CONSERVATIVE LEGISLATURE REJECTED NOEM SHUTDOWN ATTEMPTS
Noem made a national name for herself crusading against lockdowns and making claims about her own leadership in South Dakota keeping the state open, which simply aren’t true.
Kristi Noem has lied repeatedly about her record locking down South Dakota.
Because her media reach and focus on self-promotion was so extensive, many conservative commentators failed to verify her claims—even though her own lockdown policies were similar to that of Democrat governors in other states.
Recently, however, many of these same conservatives have started to take note, as her official record gets scrutinized. Some on the right have begun to call her out, because they see Kristi Noem’s record on COVID as being closer to Democrat governors.
When it comes to Kristi Noem, her legacy in a deep-red state is more Democrat than Republican.