South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem is under fire after being asked about LGBTQ+ issues during a recent press conference following her signing into law a ban on trans athletes playing sports on teams that align with their gender identity.
Asked about the shocking rates of mental illness within South Dakota's LGBTQ+ population, Noem pretended not to understand the origins for the problem or to see any connection between it and the abusive new law she had just signed.
The lack of empathy Noem showed in the moment has left many in the state outraged. See the exchange below.
During the conference, a reporter asked Noem about the staggering rates of depression and anxiety among LGBTQ+ South Dakotans.
"There’s a statistic circulating around right now that says 90% of South Dakota’s LGBTQ community is diagnosed with either anxiety or depression."
Asked what she thinks might be the cause of that statistic, Noem, flatly and totally devoid of emotion, simply responded:
"I don’t know. That makes me sad and we should figure it out."
The figure in discussion came from a report from healthcare information site HelpAdvisor, which recently found that 63% of LGBTQ Americans report feeling “down, depressed or hopeless” at least once a week. But in South Dakota, that rate soars to 87%, the highest in the country.
Noem's unfeeling response is at once shocking and unsurprising--like so many Republicans across the nation, far-right Evangelical Christian Noem is so dedicated to her LGBTQ+ bigotry that she has set her targets on transgender school children.
SB 46, South Dakota's new so-called Fairness In Women's Sport Bill, comes on the heels of another bill banning transgender children from using school bathrooms that accord with their gender identity that was passed simultaneously.
LGBTQ+ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign excoriated Noem as having "no shame" and accused her of victimizing South Dakota's children in order to raise her national political profile.
"The governor’s eagerness to pass a bill attacking transgender kids reveals that her national political aspirations override any sense of responsibility she has to fulfill her oath to protect South Dakotans.”
Noem is widely suspected of having presidential aspirations in 2024.
On Twitter, people were reviled by Noem's icy response to an obvious question.
Noem has made a name for herself among Republicans by attacking LGBTQ+ rights, having previously passed a law that allows businesses to deny service to LGBTQ+ people.