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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks Feb. 25, 2022,  at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. (AP) South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks Feb. 25, 2022,  at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. (AP)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks Feb. 25, 2022, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. (AP)

Matthew Crowley
By Matthew Crowley May 10, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • Media reports found three anecdotes from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s new book, “No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward,” were false. 

  • Noem said one anecdote would be pulled from the book.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s book didn’t officially drop until May 7, but a torrent of headlines made the rollout troublesome for the South Dakotan.

First, there was the story about Noem shooting her 14-month-old dog Cricket, which angered animal lovers, gathered wall-to-wall headlines (including from PolitiFact) and prompted jokes on late-night television, including "Saturday Night Live" in its May 4 "Weekend Update" segment. 

Then came three anecdotes about her foreign policy experience that multiple news outlets have reported as false. In her book, "No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward," Noem wrote about meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un during her 2013 to 2015 congressional stint on the House Armed Services Committee, canceling a 2023 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and having a phone conversation with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley that Noem deemed threatening. 

Noem, a Republican. said May 5 on CBS’ "Face the Nation"  that the Kim Jong Un anecdote "shouldn’t have been in the book." In a statement several outlets picked up, Noem’s spokesperson, Ian Fury, said, "It was brought to our attention that the upcoming book ‘No Going Back’ has two small errors. This has been communicated to the ghostwriter and editor." PolltiFact contacted the publisher, Center Street Books, for comment about whether the errors will delay the book’s rollout and what might happen with the audiobook, which Business Insider says Noem recorded with the Kim Jong Un story. We got no reply.

PolitiFact reviewed two of the questioned anecdotes in Noem’s book. As Noem stated, the Kim story was scrubbed from the Kindle edition we bought May 7; we reviewed that excerpt in other coverage of this story. 

PolitiFact also asked Fury and the House Armed Services Committee about the Kim anecdotes but didn’t hear back. A message to Macron’s office was not returned by publication. The State Department said it knew of no scheduled meetings between Noem and any senior French officials and did not address the Kim anecdote. 

Politico and The Wall Street Journal had counted Noem among possible 2024 running mates for former President Donald Trump. Axios reported Trump praising Noem the weekend of May 4, saying she is, "Somebody that I love. She's been with me, a supporter of mine and I've been a supporter of hers for a long time." In the book, Noem praised Trump, writing, "Donald Trump and a few brave folks broke politics."

The Kim anecdote

In advance copies of "No Going Back," as covered by several news outlets, Noem wrote:

"Through my tenure on the House Armed Services Committee,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)."

The account doesn’t say when the purported meeting was.

On May 2, the Dakota Scout, an independent newspaper, reported that its review of congressional travel documents and outside sources showed no record of such a meeting. Over the weekend, other news outlets followed the story, reporting the anecdote was false.

Although Noem addressed the Kim anecdote on "Face the Nation," she wouldn’t say whether she’d met with Kim. In a cross-talk filled back-and-forth discussion, host Margaret Brennan noted that when Noem served on the Armed Services Committee from 2013 to 2015, a female president led North Korea, not Kim.

HOST MARGARET BRENNAN: "You talk about meeting some world leaders and one specific one … Did you meet Kim Jong-un?"

GOV. KRISTI NOEM: Well, you know, as soon as this was brought to my attention, I certainly made some changes and looked at this — this passage. And I have met with many, many world leaders. I have traveled around the world. As soon as it was brought to my attention, we went forward and have made some edits.

BRENNAN: So, you did not meet with Kim Jong-un? That's what you're saying.

NOEM: No, I have met with many, many world leaders, many world leaders. … I'm not going to talk about my specific meetings with world leaders, I'm just not going to do that. This anecdote shouldn't have been in the book. And as soon as it was brought to my attention, I made sure that that was adjusted."

Later, came this exchange:

NOEM: Well, I think you need to remember, Margaret, and everybody needs to remember that I have worked on ag policy and federal policy for over 30 years. My time in serving and making policies in this country has been extensive and covered decades.

BRENNAN: Right, but you never went to North Korea.

NOEM: So, I make no specifics in this book. I talk about the fact that — yes, I have. I have been there.

BRENNAN: You went — you went to North Korea?

NOEM: I went to the DMZ (Korean demilitarized zone). And there are details — there details in this book that talk about going to the DMZ and specifics that I'm willing to share. There’s some specifics I'm not willing to share with you.

The Macron and Haley anecdotes

In the book, Noem also writes that she and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who until March was a Republican presidential candidate, chatted by phone in summer 2021.

Noem wrote that Haley said, "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.’"

Noem wrote that after the call, she called her assistant and said, "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.’"

Haley spokesperson Chaney Denton told PolitiFact Noem’s story about Haley was inaccurate in timing and character. 

Denton said Noem and Haley had talked, but in 2020, not 2021, and added, "(Haley) called Governor Noem in 2020 to encourage her when she was criticized for keeping her state open during COVID," Denton said in a statement. "How she would twist that into a threat is just plain weird."

Noem also wrote that she canceled a November 2023 meeting with Macron in Paris.

"While in Paris, I was slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron," Noem wrote. "However, the day before we were to meet he made what I considered a very pro-Hamas and anti-Israel comment to the press. So, I decided to cancel. There is no place for pro-Hamas rhetoric."  

PolitiFact contacted the French Embassy in Washington and Macron’s office in Paris for comment but received no reply. The Associated Press reported that Macron’s office said there had been no "direct invitation" for Noem to meet the French president, although Noem and Macron might have been invited to the same Paris event.

UPDATE, May 13, 2024: This story has been updated to include additional information from the State Department.

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Our Sources

Politico, Kristi Noem is suddenly front and center in the veepstakes, Sept. 9, 2023

CBS, "Face the Nation," May 5, 2024

The Washington Post, Kristi Noem just won’t stop talking about killing her dog, May 3, 2024

The Washington Post, Kristi Noem’s increasingly bizarre Kim Jong Un story, May 5, 2024

CNN, Noem’s book rollout has put the governor in an unwanted spotlight. But she had already fallen off Trump’s VP shortlist, May 4, 2024

New York magazine, All the weird stories in Kristi Noem’s new book, May 5, 2024

The Daily Beast, Kristi Noem cries ‘fake news’ after disastrous interview on CBS, May 5, 2024

USA Today, ‘Staring down little tyrants’: Kristi Noem's book includes false anecdote about Kim Jong Un,’ May 4, 2024

Dakota Scout, Gov. Kristi Noem's account of meeting North Korean dictator in doubt, May 2, 2024

The Associated Press, South Dakota Gov. Noem admits error of describing meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in new book, May 3, 2024

National Review, Kristi Noem’s book woes continue: now she’s caught in a huge lie, May 3, 2024

Axios, Trump's real-time reviews of 2024 VP possibles and other surrogates, May 5, 2024

Slate,  Sure, Kristi Noem killed her dog. But did she meet Kim Jong-un?, May 6, 2024

The Wall Street Journal, Is VP contender Kristi Noem ready for prime time?

March 27, 2024

The Hill: GOP: Noem up in smoke; Scott, Burgum rise in Trump VP race, May 5, 2024

Politico, Kristi Noem is suddenly front and center in the veepstakes, Sept. 24, 2023

ABC News, 'She killed her chances': Kristi Noem's odds dim of being Trump's VP pick, sources say, May 1, 2024

Politico, Kristi Noem’s VP chances appear as dead as the dog she killed. There are other reasons too, May 2, 2024

Email exchange with Nikki Haley spokesperson Chaney Denton, May 7, 2024

Email exhange with the State Department, May 10, 2024

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