Kristi Noem defends coronavirus response, takes on media critics

She criticized the media for depicting her as “ill-informed” while other states — like nearby Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin — that enforced strict lockdowns also face large spikes in virus cases and deaths.

Kristi Noem/Twitter

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her coronavirus response in a Wall Street Journal editorial this week.

She criticized the media for depicting her as “ill-informed” while other states — like nearby Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin — that enforced strict lockdowns also face large spikes in virus cases and deaths.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz denounced his neighboring executive last month for refusing to shut South Dakota down amid the pandemic. A CNN analysis in October was headlined, “This Republican governor thinks she’s nailed her state’s COVID-19 response. She hasn’t.”

“Rather than following the pack and mandating harsh rules, South Dakota provides our residents with information about what is happening on the ground in our state — the science, facts and data,” Noem wrote. “Then, we ask all South Dakotans to take personal responsibility for their health, the health of their loved ones, and — in turn — the health of our communities.”

The Mount Rushmore State hasn’t issued lockdowns, mask mandates, closed businesses or closed churches. She also won’t define an “essential business” because, Noem believes, “that isn’t the government’s role.”

“Even amid a pandemic, public policy ought to be holistic. Daily needs must still be met. People need to eat and keep a roof over their heads. And they still need purpose,” the potential 2024 presidential candidate explained. “That means policy makers cannot have tunnel vision. They must balance public-health concerns with people’s mental and emotional needs, their economic livelihoods and social connections, and liberty, among many other important factors.”

Coastal media — which often lauds blue states as having taken the “right” steps to mitigate spread — has labeled the successful governor a “denier” and hyperbolically claim South Dakota is “as bad as it gets anywhere in the world” when it comes to COVID-19.

Last week, when Noem’s 98-year-old grandmother died, Business Insider heedlessly politicized the matter and indirectly blamed the governor.

“Given the oath I swore as governor, it is my responsibility to respect the rights of the people and to manage state operations in a balanced, prudent fashion that reflects the realities on the ground here,” Noem’s piece concluded. “I am confident that we have and will continue to come out ahead of many other states in important measures of public health, economic well-being and liberty.”

She also claimed South Dakota is headed into the new year with “one of the strongest financial positions in the country.”

But none of this information will satisfy partisan critics. Within hours of the editorial’s publication, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake — a Minnesota native and former Star Tribune reporter — jumped in to tell his insular progressive readers that Noem is “using badly cherry-picked numbers” and “doesn’t bother with data.”