Sep. 18—SIOUX FALLS — Gov. Kristi Noem's personal life became very public over the weekend with salacious reports in London's
The Daily Mail
New York Post
The stories suggest that South Dakota's governor has been involved in a long-term extra-marital affair with Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager and current advisor for Donald Trump. Lewandowski also advises Noem and once served in an official capacity to the governor.
The stories have circulated widely since publishing on Friday, Sept. 15.
The revelations, the details of which have not been denied in the stories by the governor, rippled through political circles over the weekend.
The story was first published online in the conservative-leaning Daily Mail, a London-based tabloid with one of the highest daily circulations in the U.K. The story includes a number of anonymous sources who say they witnessed Noem and Lewandowski together and detailed instances of the two traveling, often on private planes funded by donors, to political events around the country.
The New York Post article referenced the Daily Mail's story and added five additional anonymous sources describing interactions between them at a hotel bar during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in 2021, as well as Trump's resort at Mar-a-Lago in 2020.
Noem, a loyal Trump supporter who recently
endorsed the former president's bid
to retake the White House at a rally in Rapid City, is often mentioned as a potential running mate. She's also been a much-sought after speaker for candidates and causes across the country, raising her national profile with appearances on national news networks.
Those national ambitions have rankled many Republicans, particularly those who aren't all-in for Trump, the current front-runner for the presidential nomination in 2024.
But the tabloid headlines in London and New York City have taken that behind-the-scenes criticism to a new level.
South Dakotans are less concerned with the private lives of their leaders than they are the day-to-day challenges of getting by, said one long-time political adviser and GOP donor.
"As South Dakotans, we pay for these distractions," the donor said. "Young families in Sioux Falls have been priced out of buying a beginner home, counties are broke and property taxes across the state are skyrocketing. People are hanging on by a financial thread and distractions aren't going to help them."
Noem's communications director, Ian Fury, declined to speak on the matter when contacted by Sioux Falls Live on Friday.
On the record, most Republicans in the state choose their words carefully.
Senate President Lee Schoenbeck said he would be the last to know what Gov. Noem does in her personal life, that he attends no meetings with her and rarely talks with her.
"I think extremely highly of her family," Schoenbeck said. "[Her husband] Bryon Noem is as good a person you would ever want to have for a friend, and I like her kids a lot, but I don't have any dealings with her."
Rep. Greg Jamison of Sioux Falls said Noem seems more focused on national issues rather than traveling the state talking to people about their challenges and potential solutions.
"Those kinds of things always seem to come out about people who are a rising political star," he Jamison said. "The Kristi Noem that I know doesn't match any of those descriptions or accounts, but Kristi and I don't chit chat either."
Other lawmakers simply don't believe it's true.
"Those stories are tabloid garbage," said House Majority Leader Rep. Will Mortenson of Pierre. "I don't believe them and am not paying attention to them."
Spencer Gosch, who was Speaker of the House in 2022, said if the relationship between Noem and Lewandowski is a rumor, it's one that's been going on for a long time.
"I haven't seen anything to corroborate it. I couldn't even speculate to its truth or not," said Gosch, who's from Mobridge. "Of course you hear things but you hear a lot of things in politics. You let a lot of it roll off your back."
Gosch was defeated in a Republican primary for a seat in the Senate by a candidate endorsed by the governor.
Lewandowski was not a public figure during his time in Pierre, Gosch said. "I wouldn't be able to point Corey Lewandowski out of a room. I've never known much about the guy and I never really cared to."
Jamison, who serves on the tax committee, said soaring property taxes are the biggest challenge facing South Dakota right now. Keeping people on a fixed income in their homes, and not having them priced out by a property tax bill they can't pay, needs to be the focus.
"Somebody said to me recently, 'Wouldn't it be nice to go back to the governor being boring?'"