Nothing to Smile About: Our Governor-Influencer Kristi Noem Gets Sued

In a turn of events that might have surprised South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, she was served with a lawsuit this past Wednesday. Noem, known for her political career, stepped into controversy with a video shared on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Truth Social. The video, a polished portrayal of her dental procedure at Smile Texas, has drawn legal attention from Travelers United, a nonprofit organization championing travel and consumer rights.

Travelers United has filed a lawsuit against Governor Noem, accusing her of misleading conduct by not disclosing the promotional nature of the video. The organization’s complaint labels Noem as a social media influencer, alleging she received compensation for the video, thus promoting medical tourism by highlighting her dental treatment in Texas. This legal action was first brought to light by Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine.

In the contentious video, Noem shares a personal anecdote about losing her front teeth in a biking accident and commends the dental team at Smile Texas for giving her a smile she is proud of. Noem, whose background includes farming, ranching, and a career in politics, emphasized the importance of being listened to without distractions related to appearance.

The lawsuit stresses the legal requirement for clear advertisement disclosure, especially when promoting travel services, medical tourism, or similar offerings. Lauren Wolfe, representing Travelers United, articulated to Rolling Stone the necessity of marking such promotions as advertisements to adhere to transparency laws.

The complaint further scrutinizes Noem’s motives, suggesting that someone with her responsibilities would not engage in promoting medical services without compensation. It implies that Noem’s actions, by not explicitly marking the content as an advertisement, constitute unfair and deceptive practices.

This situation sheds light on the evolving role of elected officials in the digital age, where their significant online presence and influence can parallel that of traditional social media influencers. With potential implications for Noem’s political future, this incident underscores the intertwined nature of consumer trends, online marketing, and the responsibilities of public figures to maintain transparency.

Nothing to Smile About: Our Governor-Influencer Kristi Noem Gets Sued
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