Noem’s former opponents reject her claim that dog-killing story was widely known and used

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem waves to the crowd during a rally with Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump at the Dayton International Airport on March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. The rally was hosted by the Buckeye Values PAC. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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During a series of contentious recent interviews, Gov. Kristi Noem repeatedly said a story in her new book about fatally shooting a dog was already widely known in South Dakota because her political opponents had used it against her.

Yet when South Dakota Searchlight contacted Noem’s former opponents, most of those who answered the phone or returned a message said they’d never heard the story before Noem put it in her own book. Others said they had previously heard rumors about the story but never used it in a campaign or ever saw anyone else use it.

The last person to run a competitive race against Noem was Billie Sutton, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018 who lost by three percentage points.

When told of Noem’s comments, Sutton said “that’s just not true,” adding that he’d never heard the dog story before she included it in her book.

Noem has been on a book tour since last weekend, giving interviews to the national media and encountering difficult questions even from Republican-leaning outlets. She’s been a subject of national ridicule and scorn for revealing in the book that she fatally shot a dog and a goat, and for apparently fabricating a claim that she met North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The book is titled “No Going Back.”

As interviewers have asked about the dog story, Noem has often said she included it to set the record straight after the story was used against her in her home state.

“Everybody’s known that story for years,” Noem told Fox News. “That’s what most people don’t realize — that in South Dakota, they’ve used that story to attack me and my political campaigns for years. I wanted people to know the truth.”

The governor made similar comments to Newsmax.

“I think that in South Dakota, in the last couple of elections that I’ve had, my political opponents have tried to use this story, and tried to use it against me,” she said. “I wanted people to know the truth, and that’s why it’s in the book.”

Jamie Smith, a Democrat, lost to Noem in the 2022 general election. He had heard rumors about Noem shooting a dog, he said, “but our campaign chose to stay focused on the issues.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s not telling the truth and that she thought it was a good idea to tell others about her cruelty,” he said. “This is the Kristi Noem we have known in South Dakota for a long time.”

The Libertarian candidate in the 2022 race for governor, Tracey Quint, said of the dog story, “No, I had not heard it before the book.”

Noem’s most recent Republican primary opponent, Steven Haugaard, who lost to her in 2022, said the same thing.

“I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Haugaard said. “It’s certainly not well thought-out.”

Marty Jackley, the current South Dakota attorney general, lost to Noem in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary. When asked if he had ever previously heard the dog story, he answered with one word: “No.”

Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson ran against Noem in a 2010 Republican U.S. House primary, which she won on her way to serving eight years in Congress before becoming governor. Nelson said he had not heard the dog story previously.

South Dakota Searchlight asked the governor’s spokesperson, Ian Fury, to explain why Noem is claiming the dog story was widely known and used against her.

Fury responded in an email with a link to a CNN interview featuring Democratic state Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, in which Nesiba said, “This is a rumor that’s been around for years about her acting in anger to put down a dog.”

Nesiba told Searchlight, “I’d never heard of anyone using it against her.” He thinks Noem was attempting to get ahead of the story by putting it in her book, rather than allowing the media to uncover it as she sought to be chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate in this year’s presidential race.

Searchlight asked Fury if that was the rationale. He did not reply.

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party issued a news release Wednesday calling for Fury’s resignation due to what the party described as his failure to provide effective communications for Noem during the preparation of her book and the ensuing fallout.

Party Chair Shane Merrill and Vice Chair Jessica Meyers said in a joint statement, “Public service is an honor and a privilege. South Dakota taxpayers should not be on the hook paying Ian Fury more than $144,000 a year salary to destroy the reputation of our state and negate the millions of dollars spent to advertise South Dakota across the country.”

In other Noem news, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate this week became the fifth Native American tribe in South Dakota to ban her from a reservation due to her recent claims that tribal leaders are benefitting from Mexican cartel drug trafficking.

This story was published earlier by the South Dakota Searchlight, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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