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Kristi Noem tried a profitable lap for her coronavirus response to CBS. It didn't go effectively.

South Dakota Governor and aspiring Conservative star Kristi Noem was a huge hit at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, where she bragged about her state's response to the coronavirus during a headlining speech. However, an interview she did hours later with CBS revealed that her attempt to turn reality upside down does not survive the test.

In reality, South Dakota's laissez-faire approach to fighting the pandemic – including Noem's refusal to enforce a mask mandate – was "a failed herd immunity experiment," as Bloomberg recently said. The state has one of the 10 highest death rates in the United States. More than 1 in 500 residents has died since the pandemic began. And, as Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan noted during the CBS interview, the death rate in South Dakota was the highest in the country since last July.

Noting that the governor is a staunch conservative, Brennan urged Noem to explain how someone who claims to care about the sanctity of life can "justify decisions that endanger the health of your constituents." Your answer was nonsensical whataboutism.

"Those are questions you should be asking any other governor in this country, too," she said, though the whole point of the question is that South Dakota's response to Covid-19 was a failure – and far more limited – in comparison to the vast majority of the other states.

BRENNAN: Your state has had the highest Covid death rate since July. How can you justify that?

NOEM: These are questions you should be asking any other governor as well.

– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2021

Perhaps most egregiously, Noem encouraged people to come to their state for the Sturgis motorcycle rally last August, despite the raging pandemic.

Public health experts said the rally, which eventually attracted nearly 500,000 people, was a very bad idea. At least one study has confirmed this – research by the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies at San Diego State University has found that not only could it have infected hundreds of thousands of people with the virus, but it could generate more than $ 12 billion in healthcare costs.

When asked about Brennan's San Diego study, Noem said that what she particularly appreciates is that "people can make decisions for themselves."

"Look, we made it possible for people to make choices for themselves," she said. "We gave them all the information about this virus – how to protect their health – and then allowed them to make decisions about what they would do."

"My question is, if we had ordered people to stay home, if we had ordered businesses to close, would that have made a difference?" Noem continued. "I would argue that it would not."

When asked whether she will take personal responsibility for the Sturgis motorcycle rally 2020 as a superspreader event, Noem says: "We made it possible for people to make decisions for themselves"

– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2021

However, as Brennan pointed out, Noem's position is not supported by facts. In addition to the San Diego study mentioned above, which links Sturgis to many thousands of cases, Deborah Birx, coordinator of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, recently described Noem's decision to approve Sturgis as "not okay". And, as the Washington Post reports, health experts believe the rally may have sparked coronavirus cases in the Midwest, adding to the surge in cases nationally last fall.

Noem's coronavirus response has even been considered by Republicans like West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. He responded to critics of his mask mandate last November by saying, "I don't want to be South Dakota." Brennan asked Noem about Justice's comment, but instead of engaging in it, Noem immediately turned to beating up Blue State governors like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom, who both had questions about their Covid-19 response.

Pressed on Face the Nation over a Republican governor citing South Dakota as an example of not responding to Covid, Governor Kristi Noem immediately spins something about Cuomo and what about Newsom

– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2021

In short, Noem's CBS interview didn't go well for her. But Margaret Brennan isn't the GOP base, and if Noem's CPAC reception is any indication, Republican voters are actually seeing her coronavirus response as a success.

Noem's CPAC speech showed how little conservatives have learned about the coronavirus

"Let me be clear – Covid didn't destroy the economy, the government destroyed the economy," Noem claimed at the CPAC on Saturday, before shooting directly at trusted public health experts.

"DR. Fauci is very wrong," she added to great applause.

Noem's position that personal freedoms are more important than public health seemed to be the consensus view at CPAC. This was illustrated by a notable scene on Friday in which the organizers of the conference had to ask attendees to obey hotel rules and wear a mask on the premises to scream and shout "Freedom!"

CPAC officials must remind attendees to respect the hotel's rules and to wear a mask out of love for God. Unhappy people in the audience shout "Freedom!"

– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 26, 2021

Noem is not into masks himself. Earlier this month, she was widely criticized for tweeting photos of herself posing maskless with a group of legislative sites during a dinner at the governor's villa (all but one in the photo were maskless).

At least the photo was a bad example for her constituents – mostly because she let them wear masks. But in these polarized times, what looks like a bad example to the science-minded looks like a heroic example of library ownership to Republicans.

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