Noem book dogged by new claims of inaccuracies

The South Dakota governor says she met with North Korea's dictator and, separately, that she was threatened by Nikki Haley. Both are being questioned.

Noem book dogged by new claims of inaccuracies

Days ahead of its release, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is mired in yet more controversy surrounding the impending release of her new memoir — and this time, it involves an allegation about former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

First came Noem's disclosure about shooting and killing her 14-month-old wirehair pointer, Cricket, for misbehaving. Then, just as the dog-killing news cycle was cresting, the Dakota Scout reported on an anecdote in “No Going Back” that on its face is highly improbable: Noem’s claim that she met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un while serving as a back-bencher in Congress.

“Through my tenure on the House Armed Services Committee,” Noem wrote, “I had the chance to travel to many countries to meet with world leaders. I remember when I met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I’m sure he underestimated me, having no clue about my experience staring down little tyrants (I’d been a children’s pastor, after all).”

In fact, the only part of this that checks out is Kim “having no clue about” Noem — because they never met.

Noem’s spokesperson, Ian Fury, seemed to concede that the Kim story was false Thursday night: “We’ve been made aware that the publisher will be addressing conflated world leaders’ names in the book before it is released.”

That's not the only story in the memoir raising questions about its validity. Playbook obtained an excerpt from the Noem book that includes an unusual allegation about Haley — one that the former 2024 hopeful plainly denies.

The way Noem tells the story, in the summer of 2021 she “was hauling a trailer full of horses” when she got word that Haley wanted to talk.

Here’s how Noem recounts the conversation:

“‘Hi, Governor, this is Ambassador Nikki Haley, and I just wanted to introduce myself and have a conversation. I just wanted to let you know that I follow you quite a bit. I have heard quite a bit about you, and you are doing a good job there in South Dakota. I was thinking that maybe you might like a mentor, and maybe I could be someone who could do that for you. Because you’re a governor, you’ve gone through some challenging things that I did as well. I would be more than willing to be a mentor, because you’ve never been in this type of role before.’

“She went on to tell me about her life story, her résumé, and some of the challenges she faced in her legislature as governor and as ambassador to the United Nations reading daily talking points from the State Department. Once again, I recall, she offered to mentor me, as she was sure I was facing some decisions and situations I’d never seen before. …

“After what seemed to me a bit of an awkward pause, she added, ‘I … just … also want you to know one more thing … I’ve heard a lot of really good things about you. But I also want you to know that if I hear something bad … I will be sure to let you know.’

“There was a long pause. 

“‘Um, well, thanks for that, Ambassador.’

“‘Let me be clear,’ she added. ‘I’ve heard many good things about you. But when I do hear bad things, I will make sure that you know. I’ve enjoyed talking to you. We will visit soon. Goodbye.’ Click.”

Was that a threat? Here’s where things get strange. After she “took a few minutes to process the experience,” Noem called her assistant. She recounts their conversation:

“‘I think I was just threatened by Nikki Haley?’


“‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure I was just threatened by Nikki Haley. It was clear that she wanted me to know that there was only room for one Republican woman in the spotlight. It was weird.’

“Unsurprisingly, I never received any calls or ‘mentoring’ from her, but the message was clear. I’m the alpha female here, and you should know your place. I actually felt a little sad for her.”

Contacted for comment, Haley spokesperson Chaney Denton was befuddled. She said the two women did talk, but — looking back at Haley’s calendar — found that it was in 2020, not 2021.

“Nikki has long called and written notes supporting other women when they go through challenging times,” Denton said. “She called Governor Noem in 2020 to encourage her when she was criticized for keeping her state open during Covid. How she would twist that into a threat is just plain weird.”

Finally, there is one other criticism that Noem levels against Haley, whom she calls a “lone wolf,” that is worth highlighting: Their very different responses to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

“The day after January 6, 2021, I did have a brief conversation with Nikki at the RNC meeting,” Noem writes. “In my speech I talked about the importance of continuing to support Donald J. Trump, regardless of the fact that what unfolded on January 6 was undeniably ugly. She used the podium to criticize and distance herself from the former president.”