- Potential 2024 hopefuls Tucker Carlson and Kristi Noem butted heads on Fox News Monday night.
- While the debate was ostensibly about transgender athletes, it previewed their 2024 messaging.
- “No, that’s not right at all, Tucker,” Noem said at one point. “In, fact, you’re wrong. Completely.”
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
An otherwise routine appearance for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Fox News Monday night quickly turned tense when host Tucker Carlson began asking if she was “caving” to the NCAA by not signing a bill on transgender women athletes.
Both Carlson and Noem have been the subject of heavy speculation that they’ll run for president in 2024, making them potential GOP primary opponents.
Insider first reported on chatter in Republican circles about a possible Carlson run back in July. Noem currently sits at number seven in Insider’s 2024 GOP primary power rankings, while Carlson is unranked, given the lack of clarity over whether he’s serious about a run, a notion he has previously described as “insane.”
-Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 23, 2021
The bill in question would bar trans women and girls from competing in women’s sports in South Dakota.
As Insider’s Madison Hall and Kayla Epstein previously reported, South Dakota’s bill is one of 36 similar pieces of legislation being pushed by GOP controlled legislatures across the country as the issue becomes a priority for the party.
In her Fox News hit, Noem tried to explain that signing the bill could lead to a drawn out court battle that the state would likely lose.
Carlson then cut her off and paraphrased what she was explaining.
“But wait, wait, wait – so you’re saying the NCAA threatened you, and you don’t think you can win that fight,” Carlson said. “They said if you sign this, they won’t allow girls in South Dakota to play, and you don’t think you can win in court, even though the public overwhelmingly supports you nationally, and so you’re caving to the NCAA. I think that’s what you’re saying.”
“No, that’s not right at all, Tucker,” Noem responded. “In, fact, you’re wrong. Completely. I’ve been working on this issue for years.”
Later on, Carlson described her decision as the result of when “big business intercedes, [the] NCAA, Chamber of Commerce and Amazon and tell you not to sign it, and you change your mind.”
“Well, that’s not true, Tucker,” Noem replied, appearing to grow increasingly irritated.
At another point, Carlson asked why Noem was talking about Title IX – the legal standard which prevents colleges and universities from discriminating in athletics or academics by gender – when “this is thousands of years of common sense and tradition.”
The exchange offered a possible sample of what their messaging to Republican voters could look like in a primary matchup between the two.
“Girls play girls sports. Boys play boys sports,” Carlson continued. “Why not, instead, just say, ‘Bring it on, NCAA. I’m a national figure. Go ahead and try and exclude us. I will fight you in the court of public opinion and defend principle.’ Why not just do that?”
Noem said Carlson was “preaching my sermon,” and that “I’m not interested in a participation trophy.”
“I’m not interested in picking a fight that we can’t win,” Noem continued. “I am a problem solver. I want to come to the table and I don’t want to have talking points. And I’ve been bullied for the last year by liberals, Tucker.”
The South Dakota governor then positioned herself as someone who’s interested in getting results instead of pursuing Carlson’s scorched earth strategy.
“I’m not gonna let anybody from the NCAA, from any big business – I’m not gonna even let conservatives on the right bully me,” she said. “I’m gonna solve the problem. I’m gonna make sure that we’re building strength in numbers … and make sure that we’re keeping only girls playing in girls sports.”
As Carlson kept pushing back, Noem turned the tables and began pressing the host over whether he’d read what she was talking about.
“Well did you read the bill or the style and reform message that I sent to the legislature?” Noem said.
“I did. I did. Yes, but I’m – ” Carlson said, before Noem cut him off and wrapped up her final remarks for the segment.