The Kristi Noem and Kim Jong Un Controversy, Explained - 4 minutes read

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem reportedly wrote in her new memoir that she met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—but later said the anecdote shouldn’t have been in the book and would be "adjusted."

In No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward, Noem wrote that she met the North Korean leader while she was in Congress as South Dakota’s representative, according to news outlets which obtained a copy of the book ahead of its publication on May 7. The Dakota Scout reported the news on May 2, which was then picked up by other outlets. 

“I had the chance to travel to many countries to meet with world leaders—some who wanted our help, and some who didn’t,” the New York Times quoted Noem as writing. “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). Dealing with foreign leaders takes resolve, preparation, and determination.”

After doubt was cast upon this account, Noem and her spokesperson Ian Fury told news outlets the statement shouldn’t have been in the book and would be corrected ahead of publication.

Read More: Trump VP Contender Kristi Noem Faces Backlash After Admitting to Killing Her Dog

In an interview with CBS News’ Face the Nation that aired on May 5, journalist Margaret Brennan asked Noem: “Did you meet Kim Jong Un?”

“Well you know, as soon as this was brought to my attention, I certainly made some changes and looked at this passage, and I’ve met with many, many world leaders, I’ve traveled around the world,” Noem responded. “As soon as it was brought to my attention, we went forward and have made some edits. So I'm glad that this book is being released in a couple of days, and that those edits will be in place, and that people will have the updated version.” 

Brennan then asked: “So you did not meet with Kim Jong Un? That's what you're saying.”

“No, I’ve met with many, many world leaders,” Noem said. “...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 was adjusted.” 

Fury previously told the Dakota Scout that the book’s publisher would be “addressing conflated world leaders’ names in the book.” Fury was also quoted telling other news outlets that the North Korean leader was mentioned in error. 

“It was brought to our attention that the upcoming book ‘No Going Back’ has two small errors,” Fury told the New York Times. “This has been communicated to the ghostwriter and editor. Kim Jong Un was included in a list of world leaders and shouldn’t have been.” 

TIME reached out to Fury for further information, who responded after Noem’s interview on CBS had aired, pointing to those comments.

Noem was widely considered to be a Vice President contender for presidential candidate Donald Trump, having spoken at his rallies and publicly pledged her support for the former President. However, CNN reported on May 4 that she had “fallen off” the shortlist before her book controversies took center stage.

The Governor was already facing criticism for another part of her new memoir in which she admitted to shooting dead her 14-month-old dog Cricket after she said the “untrainable” canine ruined a hunt, killed another family’s chickens, and moved to bite her. She also killed a goat. The admissions were first reported by the Guardian.

Noem has since defended herself. In one post on X (formerly Twitter) she said: “I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book—No Going Back.”

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down. Given that Cricket had shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them, I decided what I did,” she later continued in the same post. “Whether running the ranch or in politics, I have never passed on my responsibilities to anyone else to handle. Even if it’s hard and painful. I followed the law and was being a responsible parent, dog owner, and neighbor.” 

The Republican was elected as South Dakota’s first female governor in 2018 and re-elected in 2022, after serving in Congress since 2011 and in the South Dakota House of Representatives since 2007. 

Source: Time

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