Kristi Noem on Huge trouble on her video Promoting For Her New Smile

Kristi Noem

It looked like a strange move for South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem, to show off her newly extracted teeth in a professionally made video that was shared on social media on Tuesday. She had flown to another state to have a cosmetic treatment that was thoroughly videotaped for her followers.

A nonpartisan consumer advocacy group sued Ms. Kristi Noem on Wednesday in Superior Court in Washington, D.C., arguing that the social media post violated the district’s consumer protection law, which forbids deceptive business practices, by serving as an undisclosed advertisement for the Houston cosmetic dentistry practice that is prominently featured in the nearly five-minute video.

Ms. Kristi Noem — a Republican who is reportedly on former President Donald J. Trump’s shortlist to be his running mate — is also under scrutiny in her home state over the dental procedure.

Kristi Noem

On Wednesday, a state senator in South Dakota called for the State Legislature’s operations and audit committee to examine her trip to Texas, particularly whether she used public funds or a state airplane.
A representative for Ms. Noem did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Smile Texas, the practice Ms. Kristi Noem mentions at length in the video, advertises itself as a destination for cosmetic procedures, offering guidance on travel and financing on its website.

A representative reached at the company’s main line on Thursday said: “I ran to the phone and I’m not going to talk to you. That’s HIPAA policy. You’re smart enough to know that.” (HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — governs the use and disclosure of certain sensitive health information. It’s often used — at times incorrectly — as shorthand for “medical privacy.”)

In Tuesday’s video, Ms. Kristi Noem, 52, describes how she flew to Houston so “the team at Smile Texas” could fix her teeth, which she said were knocked out in a biking accident years ago.

Her testimonial is interspersed with footage of a dentist in the practice and tight shots of her mouth, and it ends with the logo for Smile Texas. Ms. Noem did not include a “sponsored” tag or otherwise label the content.

Smile Texas posted the video on its Instagram account, along with other images of Ms. Kristi Noem.

In the video, Ms. Kristi Noem — who has gained prominence in the Republican Party — says she was motivated by wanting to feel confident, and for her smile not to be a distraction.

Kristi Noem

“I want, when people look at me, to hear the words that I say and not be distracted by something I am wearing or how I look or even my appearance,” she said. Travelers United, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on travel, took issue with the ad, calling it an example of an influencer promoting medical tourism — traveling to another state to have a procedure — without disclosing that it was an advertisement.

Ms. Kristi Noem, the suit says, “advertised a product or service without disclosing that she has a financial relationship with that company.” The lawsuit seeks to compel her to make “corrective disclosures” on the social media posts.

Legally speaking, social media influencers who collaborate with brands or companies on postings must usually disclose this relationship by either saying “ad” in the caption or providing an explanation of the partnership. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission published guidelines about the practice.

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