South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem ripped into Dr Anthony Fauci for criticizing her state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday.
The Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate fiercely defended South Dakota’s record on COVID-19 and said Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, wrongly predicted that the state would be overwhelmed by the virus.
‘We never focused on case numbers. Instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity,’ Noem said.
‘Dr Fauci told me that I would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital on our worst day. On our worst day, we had a little over 600.’
‘I don’t know if you agree but, Fauci is wrong a lot!’ she added, eliciting cheers from the audience.
Scroll down for video
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem ripped into Dr Anthony Fauci for criticizing her state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday (pictured)
‘I don’t know if you agree but, Fauci is wrong a lot!’ Noem said of the NIH director (pictured at the White House on Thursday)
Noem then turned her attention to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been slammed over his handling of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes. He signed a March order that allowed nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients back to their facilities.
Earlier this month, Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s secretary, unleashed a political firestorm when she admitted to state Democrats that the administration had deliberately hid data on the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
‘That’s the media’s COVID hero,’ Noem said of Fauci.
‘By the way, he also earned an Emmy and wrote a book on his COVID response. So, who really needed the advice?’
Noem also slammed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over his handling of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes
Noem, who has fought against mask mandates throughout the pandemic, spent the majority of her lengthy address railing against lockdowns and arguing that the US economy was ‘crushed’ by the government, not the virus.
‘The question of why America needs conservatives can be answered by just mentioning one single year, and that year is 2020,’ Noem said.
‘Everybody knows that almost overnight we went from a roaring economy to a tragic, nationwide shutdown.’
She touted her decision not to close business or require masks, saying: ‘No governor should ever arrest, ticket, or fine people for exercising their freedoms.’
South Dakota has often struggled to contain the pandemic, leading the country in cases and deaths per capita this fall despite having a population of under 885,000.
As of last week the state ranked second for cases per capita with 12,609 per 100,000 and eighth for deaths per capita with 212 per 100,000, according to a tally from Becker’s Healthcare.
Noem was roundly criticized in August when she encouraged a motorcycle rally in Sturgis that was reportedly attended by 250,000 people.
South Dakota has often struggled to contain the pandemic, leading the country in cases and deaths per capita this fall despite having a population of under 885,000. The state’s latest metrics are shown above in graphs from the COVID Tracking Project
With her eyes on a White House run in 2024, Noem made it clear in her CPAC speech that she still supports former President Donald Trump as she borrowed his penchant for attacking Fauci.
She stood in front of a banner with the words ‘America Uncanceled’ as she asserted that the US has seen ‘an organized, coordinated campaign to remove and eliminate all references to our nation’s founding and many other parts of our history’.
‘To attempt to cancel the founding generation is an attempt to cancel our own freedoms,’ Noem said.
‘Let’s always remember America is good. Freedom is better than tyranny. We are unique, we are exceptional, and no American should ever, ever apologize for that.’
She also called for Republicans to change their approach to attracting voters, arguing that relying on traditional right-wing campaign issues such as deregulating industry and cutting taxes ‘is not good enough anymore’.
‘As conservatives, we often forget that stories are much more powerful than facts and statistics,’ Noem said.
‘Our stories need to be told. It is the only way that we will inspire and motivate the American people to preserve this great country.’
With her eyes on a White House run in 2024, Noem made it clear in her CPAC speech that she still supports former President Donald Trump as she borrowed his penchant for attacking Fauci
The governor also revealed that she was inspired to go into politics after her father died in a farming accident.
She recalled sifting through items in the console of his pickup truck and finding a recording device.
‘I pushed the play button and immediately I heard my dad’s voice. He was talking about seed corn varieties,’ she said.
‘I made a decision that day, to be like my dad.’
A recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of voter preferences for 2024 found that Noem is polling at just one percent.
She is slated to meet with donors at a fundraising event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida next month, hosted by Donald Trump Jr.
Many other potential 2024 hopefuls took the stage at CPAC with messages similar to Noem’s, including Florida Gov Ron DeSantis and US Sens Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. Former President Trump is slated to speak on Sunday afternoon.