The South Dakota governor claimed the administration's decision to block a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore while holding a similar celebration in the nation's capital was 'political' and 'punitive.'
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem lashed out on Wednesday after learning that President Joe Biden would be celebrating Independence Day with fireworks in Washington, D.C., suggesting it was unfair given the Biden administration had blocked a July 4 fireworks show in her home state months earlier.
The White House announced on Tuesday that it would be holding a fireworks viewing reception for military families and essential workers on the White House South Lawn for the Fourth of July. "America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year. A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunions and celebrations," officials said in an email to local leaders, according to the New York Times.
The announcement came just two weeks after a federal judged upheld the Biden administration's decision in March to ban a similar Fourth of July fireworks show at Mount Rushmore.
Noem seemed to suggest on Wednesday that the White House celebration was punishment for her lack of COVID-19 response.
"Fireworks for @JoeBiden, but not for South Dakota," she tweeted, sharing a clip of her Tuesday appearance on Fox News, where she had railed against the president for his earlier announcement.
"I was shocked," she said in the clip. "I can't believe they're still denying us the opportunity to have our own celebration, when they're basically directing all states, communities, and tribes to hold celebrations with pomp and circumstance."
When asked by host Brian Kilmeade if she felt the administration's denial of their permit was simply "retribution" for keeping her state open throughout the pandemic, she responded that there were "no significant reasons why they denied it from us."
"We had already complied with all the environmental hoops they made us jump through, we did all the fire precautions," she claimed. "... That's why we feel this is punitive."
She described the move as "just political."
Noem's claims aren't entirely based in fact.
As National Park Service Regional Director Herbert Frost explained in a March letter turning down the state's request for a permit, "Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event. In addition, the park's many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial."
Noem herself acknowledged in a March 30 executive order that the state was facing "dangerous fire conditions."
In her Fox News appearance on Tuesday, however, she dismissed any fire safety concerns, noting that they would be totally addressed by her "go/no go checklist" which requires safety signoff by federal, state, and local officials "up to a couple of hours before the event."
An 1868 treaty between Sioux and the U.S. government "recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people," according to the National Archives. But the federal government decided to reclaim the land after gold was found there less than a decade later. Construction on the monument began in 1927, without agreement from the Sioux Nation.
Noem filed a lawsuit in April demanding a permit for the fireworks show National Parks officials had denied. A federal judge rejected her claims on June 3, finding that granting her request would constitute "improper judicial activism."
"This country could use a good celebration of its foundational principles of democracy, liberty, and equal protection of law, after a pandemic that has disrupted society and business and has killed nearly 600,000 United States citizens to date, after an insurrection and physical incursion of the United States Capitol while Congress was convening to certify the outcome of the presidential election, and after this nation has become so sadly divided by the politicization of so many issues, likely to include even the outcome of this case," wrote Chief Judge Roberto Lange of the federal district court of South Dakota, according to the Associated Press.
However, he added, "[It would] be improper judicial activism for this Court to disregard settled law" regarding federal agencies' ability to issue their own rules.
Noem said she would appeal in hopes of getting a permit for 2022 and blamed her loss on "the radical left's agenda."
As a result of her lack of action, and her decision to allow South Dakota to remain open through even the worst parts of the pandemic, the state saw more than 124,000 coronavirus cases — the third-worst rate in the country, per capita — and more than 2,000 deaths, the nation's ninth-worst rate.
Noem, meanwhile, claimed in October that her handling of the pandemic was a great example of "Republican leadership."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.