SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Two days after declaring on Twitter "there are consequences for how we talk to each other in this country" following an attack on the U.S. Capitol, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem referred derogatorily to Democratic Georgia senators-elect, including Raphael Warnock, a Christian pastor, as "communists" in a bombastic column published on a right-wing website, Friday, Jan. 8.
"Republicans got our butts kicked in Georgia on Tuesday," wrote Noem, a Republican, who campaigned for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two Republican senators who were defeated on Tuesday's run-off election in Georgia.
"A 33-year-old with no accomplishments and a smooth-talking preacher wiped the floor with us," she wrote. "The idea that Georgia, of all places, could elect two communists to the United States Senate was ridiculous."
Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church once led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American civil rights icon who was also labeled a "communist" by his foes and assassinated.
On Friday, Perdue conceded to Jon Ossoff, a former Hill staffer for a Georgia congressman and producer for a documentary film company.
Ms. Noem made her remarks in a column about the future of the Republican Party published on Friday in The Federalist.com, a conservative blog. The column was adapted from a closed-door speech Noem reportedly gave Thursday to the Republican National Committee at its winter meeting in Florida.
Two days earlier, only hours after the U.S. Capitol had been stormed by rioters, Gov. Noem published a Tweet calling on Americans to defuse their rhetoric, writing, "There are consequences for how we talk to each other in this country. Today, let's all pray for healing and peace for our nation."
There are consequences for how we talk to each other in this country. Today, let’s all pray for healing and peace for our nation. Let’s all remember that the United States of America is the most special nation in history.— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) January 7, 2021
On Saturday morning, South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Pam Cole criticized Noem's aspersions in a media blast.
"Noem is complicit in spreading Trump's dangerous form of governing," said Cole. "She needs to stop the nonsense."
Warnock, a Democrat, has spoken in support of small business owners impacted by the pandemic. The false claim that he is a "communist," which has been repeated during the campaign, appears to have roots in an event from the mid-1990s, when then-Cuban dictator Fidel Castro spoke at a church in Harlem at which Warnock was a junior pastor.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, who investigated the event's ties to Warnock, said "there is no evidence Warnock was involved in arranging Castro’s appearance or welcoming him."
Similarly, The Washington Post in October debunked the attack line Perdue used to claim his opponent, Ossoff, had been endorsed by the Communist Party, which is not true.
Since the siege at the U.S. Capitol by a mob incited by President Trump on Wednesday, some wings of the Republican Party have undergone a reckoning over violent rhetoric.
In a resignation letter on Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told Trump "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation and it is the inflection point for me."
On Friday night, in an interview with an Anchorage newspaper Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski called on Trump to resign and threatened to leave the Republican Party if the party continues to align with the president following the siege.
At the RNC winter meeting, the committee reportedly took an informal poll over which closed-door speech it had like better, that of Gov. Noem or Nikki Haley.
The former United Nations ambassador had condemned the storming of the Capitol and, to the RNC according to The Hill, called Trump's messages "badly wrong." Noem's remarks refrained from blaming anyone for the insurrection at the Capitol.
The party officials preferred Noem since she hadn't criticized Trump in her speech, a source told the New York Times.
Noem has embraced her expanded national profile this year, but has repeatedly denied she intends to run for president in 2024 and has said she'll run for a second term as governor in 2022.