South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her coronavirus record and spoke about freedom, liberty and conservatism at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday in Orlando.
In a 25-minute address, the 2024 presidential hopeful argued that government, not the pandemic, “crushed” the reeling U.S. economy.
“The question of why America needs conservatives can be answered by just mentioning one single year, and that year is 2020,” Noem said. “Everybody knows that almost overnight we went from a roaring economy to a tragic, nationwide shutdown.”
She criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci for his inaccurate predictions about South Dakota’s fate with the virus.
“We never focused on case numbers. Instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity,” Noem explained. “Dr. Fauci told me that I would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital on our worst day. On our worst day, we had a little over 600. I don’t know if you agree but, Fauci is wrong a lot!”
She also called media coverage of her state’s coronavirus response “a lie,” while bashing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his deadly nursing home policies.
Noem talked about a testy November interview with George Stephanopoulos after a segment with Cuomo where the ABC commentator recommended Noem take advice from Cuomo.
“That’s the media’s COVID hero. By the way, he also earned an Emmy and wrote a book on his COVID response. So, who really needed the advice?” Noem claimed.
Personal responsibility was a theme in the governor’s speech.
Noem said her administration looked at the data and science before taking a “balanced” approach in their response to the pandemic. She believes people, including students and teachers, are primarily responsible for their health and well-being.
“From the earliest days of the pandemic, our priority was the students; their well-being; their education. When it was time to go back to school in the fall, we put our kids in the classrooms,” she explained. “We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are — and the coercion, force, and anti-liberty steps governments take to enforce them. Often, enforcement isn’t based on facts. Justifying these ‘mitigation efforts’ has been anything but scientific.”
Noem believes governors should not dictate which activities are officially approved or not; and no governor should arrest or fine people for exercising their freedoms.
She then told the story of her political origins, which began by managing a family farm after her father’s death when she was 22. Noem found tapes recorded by her father — talking about crop yields and what he’d do differently in terms of farming that year — while cleaning out his truck.
“In that moment, I felt a strange type of peace settle over me,” Noem said. “It was as if in that moment, God was saying to me, ‘I will provide. Stop worrying. You will be ok. Your family will be ok. I’ve got this.’ I had the answers. I just needed to get to work. Dad was always the hardest worker. He led by example and action, but that day, what changed everything were his words. I made the decision that day to be like my dad. A person of words and action.”
The 49-year-old former congresswoman closed with lessons for conservatives and all Americans.
“Let’s always remember: America is good. Freedom is better than tyranny. We are unique. We are exceptional. And no American should ever, ever apologize for that,” Noem advised. “As conservatives, we often forget that stories are much more powerful than facts and statistics. Our stories need to be told. It is the only way that we will inspire and motivate the American people to preserve this great country.”
The governor defended her speech and policies Sunday on Face the Nation.