Kristi Noem’s former adviser accuses governor of ‘gaslighting’ with new ad on women’s sports

Kristi Noem’s former adviser accuses governor of ‘gaslighting’ with new ad on women’s sports

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is “gaslighting” her state with a new ad claiming that she never backed down in the fight over girls’ sports, one of her former advisers argued on Saturday. 

“This ad is incredibly disingenuous at best and gaslighting at worst,” Caroline Thorman Woods, who previously served as Noem’s policy adviser and federal liaison, said in the Rapid City Journal. She went on to claim that Noem was pushing “fabricated claims that the governor desperately wishes were true.”

Thorman Woods was referring to a video Noem tweeted last week touting the governor’s “steady conservative leadership,” which “doesn’t win headlines.” 

“It wins results,” the narrator added, before highlighting Noem’s recent bill limiting collegiate and K-12 participation to the sex identified on an athlete’s birth certificate. The ad also claims that Noem has been “protecting girls’ sports for years and never backed down.”

KRISTI NOEM INTRODUCING WOMEN’S SPORTS BILL LIMITING PARTICIPATION BASED ON SEX ON BIRTH CERTIFICATE 

Announced last year, Noem’s bill made good on a promise she delivered when she controversially vetoed a similar bill from the state legislature. It also raised questions about her previous objection to the state legislature’s restrictions on participation at the collegiate level.

In a statement to Fox News, Noem communications director Ian Fury described Thorman Woods as a “disgruntled former staffer.”

“This op-ed is filled with misinformation and outright lies. It comes from a disgruntled former staffer that moved to SD [South Dakota] from DC and only worked in the governor’s office briefly,” said Fury. “This op-ed reflects more work than she did in her seven short months working here. Her DC agenda did not reflect SD values, and we were happy to see her go.”

When asked to clarify which portion of the op-ed had misinformation or outright lies, Fury said there was ‘too much misinformation to start listing.'”

Caroline Thorman Woods and her former boss, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, pose for a photo in December 2020.

Caroline Thorman Woods and her former boss, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, pose for a photo in December 2020. (Caroline Thorman Woods)

Caroline Thorman Woods in a photo with her former boss, Gov. Kristi Noem, while they were pheasant hunting in South Dakota, October 2020.

Caroline Thorman Woods in a photo with her former boss, Gov. Kristi Noem, while they were pheasant hunting in South Dakota, October 2020. (Caroline Thorman Woods)

Thorman Woods ran through the testy history of Noem’s decision to reject the legislature’s bill, which earned her a smattering of criticism from conservatives like Matt Walsh.

Responding to Fury, Thorman Woods told Fox News: “The personal attacks have come because Noem can’t address the substance of my piece – everything has been widely covered and is factual. Again, we’re all glad she came around to our side, but the revisionist history is insulting to the people of South Dakota.”

“She broke promises to her voters, and now she’s upset when a South Dakota resident, who moved to her great state to fight for conservative values, calls her out for betraying the very people who elected her. To reiterate, here’s why I wrote the op-ed. Noem asked for forgiveness after making several egregious policy mistakes. It was granted not only by South Dakota constituents, but also much of the conservative movement. Then she decides to engage in what amounts to a propaganda campaign, pretending as if she didn’t commit errors in the first place. The people of South Dakota are neither stupid nor suffering from collective memory loss. Her act was an abuse of goodwill that needed to be highlighted.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on July 11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on July 11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

After supporting the bill, Noem controversially sent a style and form veto back to the legislature with a slew of requests, including removing a provision designed to protect collegiate sports. The Republican-led legislature ultimately failed to override her veto and the governor attempted to supplant that bill with executive orders. On the day of her veto, she signed an executive order aimed at protecting K-12 sports. 

“After going back on her word, she took major heat from conservatives at the national and local levels,” wrote Thorman Woods. 

KRISTI NOEM’S DECISION TO REJECT GIRLS’ SPORTS BILL FACES NEW SCRUTINY AMID QUESTIONS OF LOBBYIST’S INFLUENCE

Echoing other critics, the former adviser said: “Trying to recover from her unforced error with her base, Gov. Noem then offered a ‘Style and Form Veto’ to the legislature. This process allows a governor to correct typographical errors like a mistaken code reference or a misplaced comma. Instead, her ‘style’ revisions gutted protections for female college athletes to mollify corporate interests.” 

Caroline Thorman Woods, a former policy adviser to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Caroline Thorman Woods, a former policy adviser to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. (Kira Thorman)

She concluded by writing: “My dad told me growing up that ‘you’re only as good as your word.’ Well, Gov. Noem is only as good as hers.”

Noem had argued that unlike elementary and secondary school regulations, collegiate restrictions would create an unworkable patchwork for athletic organizations that operate at the national level. Nonetheless, she signed an executive order at the time stating that the board of regents “should” restrict participation in women’s sports – omitting the type of binding language she utilized in another order for the state’s department of education.

Her new bill would go beyond the executive order by mandating, rather than merely advocating, restrictions on collegiate athletic participation.

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In a statement to Fox News, Fury previously indicated that other states’ actions had made the collegiate measure more viable. Prior to Noem’s veto, Idaho’s governor had signed a similar ban. Since her veto, the governors of Florida, Alabama, West Virginia and other states have signed similar laws.

“Given HB 1217’s problematic provisions, there was a higher risk of the entire bill being enjoined if South Dakota were to be sued by the NCAA. If that had happened, no girls in South Dakota would have been protected (at K-12 or collegiate level),” he said. “Now that other states have linked arms, as Gov. Noem urged at the time, she is excited to protect girls’ sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, just as she’s done with her executive orders.”

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