June 16, 2024

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Kristi Noem’s New Teeth Are Blowing Up in Her Face

When South Dakota governor Kristi Noem posted a video to social media on Tuesday extolling the work of Smile Texas, a cosmetic dentistry practice in the Lone Star State, telling viewers she’d recently had the opportunity to go and “fix” her teeth, the resounding response was: WTF? Many people wondered whether it was infomercial, and, as a side note, suggested that it was an incredible dig against the dentists of her home state. But now, online commentary is not the only thing Noem needs to worry about!

On Wednesday, the governor was sued by Travelers United, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group that accused her of posting an “undisclosed advertisement” for the Texas dentist’s office, which it claims violated a consumer protection law against deceptive business practices. Noem, the group said, “advertised a product or service without disclosing that she has a financial relationship with that company,” adding: “She did not let her followers know when [she] is advertising on behalf of a brand. Travelers United is taking action to force her to make corrective disclosures on all social media posts where she promotes products or services.”

In the epically bizarre video, Noem said she had “knocked out” all of her front teeth years ago during a biking accident and has been in need of an adjustment ever since. Then she explained that, after a Zoom consultation several years back, she was finally able to “find the time” to fly to Texas and have her smile fixed. Why did she travel roughly 1,000 miles when, presumably, there are plenty of dentists in the state she officially represents? “I chose the team here at Smile Texas because they’re the best,” she said. “But also because they were so kind.”

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A representative for Noem did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The New York Times. When a Times reporter called Smile Texas, a person answering the phone on Thursday said, “I ran to the phone and I’m not going to talk to you. That’s HIPAA policy. You’re smart enough to know that.” (As the outlet notes, “HIPAA—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—governs the use and disclosure of certain sensitive health information. It’s often used—at times incorrectly—as shorthand for ’medical privacy.’”)

In addition to the lawsuit, Democratic South Dakota state senator Reynold Nesiba has demanded an investigation into the governor’s social media post and trip to Texas. “I just thought it was a very strange video about how much she enjoyed having her teeth done at that particular place,” Nesiba told the Associated Press, adding that he’d like to know if Noem used a state plane and/or public funds, and if she received a discount for promoting the procedure.

In February, Donald Trump confirmed Noem was on a list of people he was considering for running mates.