South Dakota governor thinks she’s a victim of cancel culture amid right-wing backlash over anti-trans sports bill

Kristi Noem South Dakota governor

A spokesperson for the governor of South Dakota has whined about “cancel culture” as conservatives turn on Kristi Noem over a bill regarding trans athletes.

Noem has been facing immense backlash from fellow Republicans for her partial veto of a bill banning trans women athletes from playing in sports teams that align with their gender identity – a move that shocked supporters as she had previously backed the bill.

The Women’s Fairness in Sports bill is intended to ban trans women from competing in women’s sports at public schools in South Dakota and was championed by Noem. She wrote on Twitter that she was “excited to sign” the bill.

However, she told Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday (22 March) that she rejected the trans athletes bill in its current form over fear that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will seek punitive action if it is passed. As such, she declined to sign the bill unless several stylistic changes are made.

Kristi Noem’s decision left conservatives unimpressed. Many criticising her defence, to the point that it prompted her office to respond.

Ian Fury, the communications director for Noem, wrote in a statement on Tuesday (23 March) that his boss was being “cancelled” by critics, who were “eating their own”.

“Apparently, uninformed cancel culture is fine when the right is eating their own,” Fury said. “A less impassioned review of the facts tells a much different story. Governor Noem has long stood for fairness in women’s sports.”

Her office added: “If conservative media would take [five] seconds to read past the knee-jerk headlines and actually understand governor Noem’s position, they’d come to a very different realisation.”

But the attacks have continued with the conservative digital magazine The Federalist mocking Noem for being upset at the criticism. Jordan Davidson wrote in an article for the magazine that “criticising cowardly politicians isn’t ‘cancel culture’, it’s democracy”.

He said Noem’s “conservative base is furious with her recent backtracking” on trans athletes, and Noem’s claims of ‘cancel culture’ is “merely a mask for the fact that a once-up-and-coming politician favoured for a national stage is learning that her actions have consequences”.

Kristi Noem told Tucker Carlson she is going to “make sure that we are building strength in numbers”, will go “after the NCAA” and “make sure that we are keeping only girls playing in girls’ sports”.

Noem denied that she was “caving into the NCAA”, saying that she could “sign the bill the way that it is, but it wouldn’t solve the problem”. She claimed the move would “only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota”.

Rhonda Milstead, a Republican congresswoman and one of the sponsors of the trans athletes bill, told the Argus Leader that Noem is “gutting the bill and writing a new law, and that’s not her job”.

“Legislators are the ones who make the laws, and the governor signs them,” Milstead said.

Noem told the Argus Leader that the “style and form clarifications” would “protect women’s sports while also showing empathy for youths struggling with what they understand to be their gender identity”.

“But showing empathy does not mean a biologically-female-at birth woman should face an unbalanced playing field that effectively undermines the advances made by women and for women since the implementation of Title IX in 1972,” she added.