Kristi Noem is sued by consumer group over bizarre Texas dentist video

The lawsuit accuses Ms Noem of ‘deceptive advertising practices’

Martha McHardy
Thursday 14 March 2024 15:35 GMT
South Dakota governor posts bizarre plug for Texas dentist

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is being sued over her promotion of a Texas dentist on her social media accounts this week.

The lawsuit, filed by the consumer advocacy group Travelers United in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that Ms Noem “advertised a product or service without disclosing that she has a financial relationship with that company” after she posted a video to social media on Tuesday promoting dental company Smile Texas.

In the video, Ms Noem describes consulting with and subsequently getting her teeth adjusted by a dentist at the company. She also praised staff for giving her “a smile I can be proud of and confident in”.

“The team here was remarkable and finally gave me a smile that I can be proud of and confident in, and that really is a gift that I think is going to be incredibly special to have,” Ms Noem is heard saying. “I chose the team here at Smile Texas because they’re the best.”

She also revealed that she decided to have her teeth adjusted after she lost all of her front teeth in a biking accident years ago.

In court filings, Travelers United attorney Lauren Wolfe accused Ms Noem of “deceptive advertising practices”, citing Federal Trade Commission guidelines on including language to distinguish social media posts as advertisements.

Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, is being sued over her promotion of a Texas dentist on her social media accounts (Getty Images)

The lawsuit also accuses Ms Noem of violating consumer protection laws in Washington, DC.

Ms Noem “seems to have taken up work as a social media influencer”, Ms Wolfe wrote in the filing, arguing that the video post is intended to promote medical tourism and advertise services to DC residents.

“Companies, like Smile Texas, pay influencers, like Kristi Noem, to promote their product or service to her followers,” the lawsuit states.

“There is no disclosure that this is an advertisement or that she received any free or discounted medical procedures in exchange for this social media advertisement,” the document added.

It is unclear if Ms Noem paid for the dental procedure or if it was discounted because of her video. It also remains unclear whether Ms Noem used a state airplane or public funds for the Texas trip.

Following the publication of the video, state senator Reynold Nesiba said he found it “very strange” and asked the Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Government Operations & Audit Committee to put the matter on the panel’s next meeting agenda in July for discussion and questions.

Travelers United is asking the court to order Ms Noem to pay punitive damages in an amount determined at trial, award statutory damages to the group, and block Ms Noem from advertising on social media without disclosure.

The Independent has contacted Ms Noem for comment.

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