South Dakota Gov. Noem tells conservative group to find new leader following dispute over ‘kid-friendly’ drag show at university

The leader of a prominent conservative organization in South Dakota sharply criticized Gov. Kristi Noem (R) for purportedly not taking any action to address a recent “kid-friendly” drag queen show at South Dakota State University.

Gov. Noem, however, just fired back with critiques of her own and essentially called for the conservative organization to fire and replace its leader, the Daily Caller reported.

The incident in question occurred on Nov. 16 when SDSU’s Gender and Sexualities Alliance student group sponsored the drag queen show, advertised it as being “friendly” to families and children, and encouraged all attendees to bring $1 and $5 bills as tips for the performers, who organizers stressed were wearing “sufficiently modest” costumes and made no contact with attendees.

Governor hasn’t done enough, group’s leader says

National Review was the first to report on the growing dispute between Gov. Noem and the leader of the state’s Family Heritage Alliance conservative advocacy group, Norman Woods, who have tangled before on other issues.

In a public open letter to the governor on Dec. 19, FHA Director Woods raised the issue of the supposed “kid-friendly” event on the SDSU campus and wrote, “Innocent children should not be exposed to drag shows. Full stop.”

He went on to suggest that such “repulsive, child-grooming events” may be in violation of a state law that prohibits events deemed to be “harmful to minors, and said, “Considering you have the power to hold the South Dakota Board of Regents accountable and fire at will, I am greatly disappointed you and your administration have taken no action to rectify this situation or to ensure that drag shows for children never happen again on South Dakota soil.”

“The only answer we have seen from your office is for South Dakotans to reach out to the Attorney General. Our children deserve our protection, and as Governor, you have not only the duty, but the responsibility to act,” Woods continued.

He ended the open letter by asking Gov. Noem to work with the state attorney general to clarify the referenced law, work with state lawmakers on legislation regarding minors and drag shows, and to speak with the school and state Board of Regents to ensure such events didn’t happen again.

Organization placed on notice

Just two days later, Gov. Noem wrote a response letter that was addressed not to Woods, but rather to the board members of the FHA that expressed how “disappointed” she was that Woods had decided to “attack me publicly by sending this letter out of the blue” while simultaneously releasing it to the media instead of first reaching out to have a “productive conversation” beforehand.

“This behavior is both counterproductive and unbecoming of the executive director of your organization, but unfortunately it has become a pattern in recent years,” she continued.

Noem went on to say that while she shared the FHA’s values and wanted to work together toward “shared goals,” her office would no longer do so “until and unless its executive director chooses to act professionally.”

The governor shared some of her conservative policy achievements and noted how “deeply unfortunate” it was that Woods has chosen to attack rather than support her. She also noted that, with regard to the questions posed in Woods’ letter, she had already taken the requested actions.

Find a new leader who will work together

“I’d encourage the Family Heritage Alliance to evaluate the purpose of your organization,” Noem concluded. “Is it to promote family values — or is it to attack the most conservative governor in the country? I believe it is the former and urge you to focus your efforts on bringing our shared pro-family message to the people of South Dakota.”

“I suggest you find an executive director who agrees,” she added.

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