Open Letter to Kristi Noem

Dear Kristi,

I haven’t seen you for a while. Our last encounter was last September when the Madison area was dealing with what I believe was called a 500-year flood. I was in the Emergency Operations Center. Calling me by name, you asked how I had been affected. I told you my ice cream was melting because I was without power. You suggested we go eat it.

Of course, since you are now courting the national spotlight, it’s not surprising you no longer have time for the local media. My stories won’t launch your political career to new heights. Considering how you have mishandled the COVID pandemic in South Dakota, I personally hope you discover that in seeking national attention, you’ve made a tragic misstep and you soon find yourself floundering like a fish out of water, struggling for political life the way I struggle for breath as I write this.

Does that sound melodramatic? At least it’s honest. I don’t pull some less than credible study out of my hat and lie not only to the people of South Dakota, but to the whole nation. The science on masks is not mixed. The science on masks is clear. They make a difference. I know your political idol, a man who claims to be a business genius but actually managed to bankrupt a casino, has encouraged folks not to wear masks, but he has not studied infectious diseases and he has not listened to experts in the field.

While you have simply failed to act appropriately, have failed to promote masks and social distancing, he has sabotaged the nation’s response to the pandemic. But, of course, you already know this and don’t care. Standing with him has resulted in the kind of contacts and donations you covet — and need if you are going to launch your career onto the national stage. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart,” and it’s clear your heart is not with the people of South Dakota. Your heart is with the political operatives who promise to make your dreams come true.

If this sounds personal, Kristi, good! Because since we last talked, I’ve been battling Stage III cancer. It’s been a rough journey. I had a bad reaction to one of the drugs in the standard chemo cocktail, and had to take a fairly significant doses of dexamethasone to tolerate the alternative used. The side effects were grueling and I had to cope alone because of the pandemic. While we did not get a cure, the chemo knocked back the cancer and my oncologist was pleased. He said the results were better than he had expected when we started.

Now, I am on immunotherapy. Every three weeks, I get an infusion and every nine weeks, I get a CT scan. These days I shudder just thinking about the CT scans because the iodine in the two pints of water I must drink tastes metallic and leaves an aftertaste that lasts for hours, tainting the flavor of anything I eat or drink. But, it’s a necessary evil.

Because I am immunocompromised, I’ve been self-isolating since the first community spread in South Dakota. With two exceptions, I have worn a mask whenever I’ve been indoors with others present. Twice, since resuming in-person interviews, I have forgotten to grab my mask from my purse before entering a building where others were present — twice in six months. I have eaten in a restaurant once — and only because I had scheduled my car for routine maintenance after a CT scan, which means I hadn’t been able to eat for hours and was hungry. Had the outdoors tables not been full, I would have eaten outdoors. I’ve only entered one business on a regular basis — the local grocery store about every two weeks, always wearing a mask.

My point, Kristi, is this — I have been taking precautions. But the people around me have not. When I go to the grocery store, few people are wearing masks. When I cover a county commission meeting, only one or two others in the room is wearing a mask. When I do in-person interviews, few volunteer to wear a mask and some think it’s odd that I do until I explain I have cancer.

Unfortunately, my mask protects others. They are doing nothing to protect me, thanks to your poor leadership. You have managed a public health crisis as though it were a political issue, and failed to provide the kind of leadership we have needed. I’m not saying you should have closed businesses. I am saying you should have advocated wearing masks, limited gatherings, and worked to creatively address the economic ramifications rather than relying on an easy answer — increase tourism.

Because of your poor leadership, I’m sleeping in a recliner so that I can breathe, wearing my warmest pajamas and swaddling myself in blankets even though I have the thermostat set at 75 because I have the chills, and am suffering with a severe headache that OTC medications don’t break. I have a low-grade fever and runny nose. The possibility exists that I have a cold, but the bread I was baking earlier this week burned and I didn’t smell it — not the bread, not the burning.

I won’t know until next week whether I do have COVID. I was tested yesterday. The nurse, dressed as though she were dealing with a hazmat situation, was clearly unhappy with being asked to swab yet another nose. She dealt with it in a perfunctory manner, and my nasal passages are still sore from the experience. I don’t know if she was unnecessarily forceful or if that is the way the test is routinely conducted. I do know that in a year filled with blood draws and medical procedures, that test was memorable.

So, Kristi, the next time you see me, don’t try to pretend we’re friends. You have demonstrated with your callous disregard for human life that I am nothing to you. If I die, you won’t care one iota more than you have cared for the hundreds of families who have already lost loved ones to COVID or the thousands who suffer as I do.

You, Kristi Noem, don’t care about South Dakota or South Dakotans. You, Kristi Noem, care about being in the spotlight and you will sacrifice all of us if that will give you a few more minutes of fame. Shame on you.


Mary Gales Askren


21 thoughts on “Open Letter to Kristi Noem

  1. Ms. Askren, I pray for continued strength and perseverance in your battle with cancer and pray that you dodge COVID-19.

    Blessings to you,

    Gerry Ambroson
    Sioux Falls.

  2. I applaud this letter to the governor. Your thoughts are mine , exactly. I, too, have been traveling the breast cancer journey this past year. I haven’t been to a restaurant since February , and wear triple ply masks and disposable gloves wherever I go. ( usually to the Cancer center ). I truly admire you and pray for your Cancer journey to be successful. I pray you don’t have Covid , as well. I am putting you in my prayer list. I hope Krusti sees this and realizes the blood on her hands and soul in the name of money and personal gain. My heart travels with you ! Thank you for this letter. I wish I could figure out how to put this on my FB page , or email it to myself. Again , blessings to you ! Patti Arneson , Rapid City. (

  3. Oh, Mary. Such a great and informative letter. You covered all of the bases with the truth. I, too have had my cancer return and been through additional chemotherapy. I, too am dealing with headaches that OTC drugs don’t help. If one thing is missing from most of our politicians, it is zero empathy. I wish people would think about that when they vote, and not just look at the R or D by their name. Masking should be everyone’s responsibility. I don’t care about “not wanting to be told what to do” It is the only defense we have against the virus right now, and Kristie refuses to acknowledge that. Our survival is at stake. Deb Nold

  4. Thank you for taking the time to write our governor. I was caught by the line …when she told you to eat the melting icecream. . How flippant. We have watched Kristi morph into Trump, wearing a skirt. How dare she say she can work away from SD. .? Really, just like she missed the many roll calls and votes in the Senate?. She is a spoiled little rich girl getting satisfsction from offering up her fellow South Dakotans for her own personal war chest.. She’s in too deep now. She won’t change. There are so many out of state people that call her their princess. A princess she is. I’m ashamed of her. I am also concerned for your health. We have followed guide lines from the beginnig and have been ridiculed in communites we’ve purchased our groc in. We have seen masks thrown to the ground after the wearer had to put one on to enter a store.
    What can we do?. Nothing. But try to stay safe on our own, surrounded by noncaring persons. We believe all that you have said and what was left unsaid.. Every day we question our fellow American’s motives and know that we are living in a political pandemic. I wonder what will go through the nonbeliever’s minds when the pandemic doesn’t disappear, after the election. What will they think then?.
    Right now you must think only of yourself and your own health. Let the injustice of it all go and place your energies where they will count. Getting well.
    Blessings and improved health to you.

  5. Perfectly stated…So sorry for your health dilemmas, Hope you develop the strength to endure and able to vote Ms. Noem out of office next election. Thank you for your SERVICE…

  6. I too have been careful,taken lots of abuse at my job for it unfortunately by the anti maskers.
    May the lord bless you and keep you on your journey

  7. THAT is the BEST thing I have read EVER concerning the absolutely hopeless ‘leadership’ in your state. The hapless population of SD is degrading to a bunch of shills for brutal, deceitful, and barely competent Administration…

    To quote the ‘Leader’…..”Sad!”

  8. Thank you for bravely speaking truth to power. I think part of your vocational call has been to write this letter! Gov. Noem needs to hear more voices like yours. Amen.

  9. Hi Mary. I’m so sorry to read about your health issues. I sincerely hope you do not have COVID.

    This letter you wrote to our governor is so freaking needed and extremely percipient. I don’t think the odds are favorable of this happening, but would you be willing to submit it to not only major South Dakota newspapers, but also national news outlets who, like you, are realizing Noem’s public appearances at high profile political events are most likely the very early preludes of an intention to garner the name recognition and bureaucratic connections for a run for a high political position.

    All South Dakotans need to read this amazing letter you wrote. And I’m equally confident Americans at large will appreciate it to, even if just for the healthcare aspect: if Trump wins, there will be no adequate replacement for the Affordable Care Act—which is likely to be gutted with a 6-3 conservative SCOTUS.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mary, while simultaneously giving a figurative backhand to our uncaring and self-serving governor. If you’re interested in getting this out there, please know that I’m willing to help with that process as much as possible. You can email me at

    God bless,

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your battles in life Mary, you show a courage and strength many in our country do not. The people in our country have become so disconnected with their fellow human beings struggles. We have become so split in our ideals, we haved turned on each other, we have become lost as a country. All the politicians that aid and abed, and fallin line with Trump will go down in history as some of the most dangerous for the societies they are supposed to protect. May God bless you, and protect you Mary.

  11. So true! Why would anyone be opposed to wearing a mask!? My husband had covid test in Rapid City before a surgery and suffered bloodly noses too many times to count and to the point where he had to seek medical treatment. The doctor said “Wow! Whoever did your covid test did a number on you!” A few days later he was in the hospital (for 14 days) with kidney failure caused by an infection and has been on dialysis since.

  12. Thank you for saying what people like me are thinking. I think we should get a new governor that is for the people of South Dakota. I also know how hard that would be. We need a change, for the better. I will pray for you and hope that God will take care of you.

  13. Thank you for your courage in writing your letter. Not only did you capture my thoughts about our absent Governor you did it oh so eloquently. May God remove all cancer from your body but also the strength if necessary to fight COVID-19.

  14. You have written the very things I would like to say to our governor…thank you. My prayers are with you, Mary. God bless and protect you.

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