This story has been updated with responses from the Noem campaign and Vaney Hariri.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – In a 500-plus word social media post, a Sioux Falls man is requesting his image be removed from Governor Kristi Noem’s latest attack ad.
Vaney Hariri, a Sioux Falls entrepreneur and co-founder of Think 3D Solutions, said the image of him standing with Jamie Smith during a protest in May 2020 should not “be conflated with what happened at the mall later that night.” Hariri said the protest in downtown Sioux Falls was “one of the most beautiful things I’ve laid my eyes on.”
“People came together from all backgrounds, saying we would not accept these things in our community. We’re not going to take the mistrust. We’re not going to buy the division,” Hariri wrote in his post. “The idea someone would take that image and make it harmful. That someone would take that image to diminish it and intentionally take that image and misrepresent what that moment was about saddened me and disappointed me.”
In Noem’s “Extreme Jamie Smith: Endangering Families” ad against Smith, the Sioux Falls lawmaker and Democratic candidate for governor, Smith’s photo with Hariri is used with the text “Jamie Smith. Marching with Black Lives Matter.”
The voice on the ad says “While crime’s skyrocketing, Smith’s marching with BLM and backing Biden’s open border agenda.”
Hariri told KELOLAND News he reached out to the Noem campaign at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Hariri said he contacted Chris Hupke, Noem’s deputy campaign manager, and Hupke told him he’d get back to him. More than three days later, Hariri said he hasn’t heard back.
Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s campaign, told KELOLAND News the image was pulled from Rep. Jamie Smith’s public social media. He also declined to answer whether the Noem campaign received Hariri’s request to remove it.
“It’s a public image,” Fury said in an email. “Why does he want to pull it down? Is he ashamed to be photographed with Rep. Smith, or to be supportive of Black Lives Matter?”
Fury also pointed to a tweet on the ad from earlier this week. “TRUE! If anything, the ad understates this one,” Fury tweeted. “AFTER the BLM march in Sioux Falls turned into a violent riot and @KristiNoem sent in the National Guard, Smith celebrated the march. Totally tone deaf!”
On Monday, Hariri responded to the Noem campaign’s response. He said Fury’s statement was an example of “toxicity I think we can do without.” He said he was disappointed his request was “met with such a cold heartless response” and wanted to know if the Noem campaign has a problem with Black Lives Matter as an organization or as a sentiment.
“Who even talks like this? Why in the world would this be the response from people who claim that they represent me as a South Dakotan? Unless they believe that they only represent people that vote for them or think like them? Of course, what makes it even more concerning is they don’t know how I vote and they don’t know what I think, because she’s made no attempt to get to know me as a person, South Dakotan, or as someone that she is supposedly representing,” Hariri told KELOLAND News.
Hariri also said he’s yet to hear back from the Noem campaign about his request.
Hariri said his post is not about Noem and is about “the type of country we want, the kind of state we want, and the type of leaders we want.”
“I don’t want leaders that engage in this kind of toxicity,” Hariri said. “We have to say no to this. You can disagree. You cannot like someone’s policies, but I don’t want to be at odds with my neighbors. I don’t want to make everyone who doesn’t agree with me an enemy, and I don’t want a leader that wants to do that, either.”
On Twitter, the Smith campaign said he knew “lies and mischaracterizations about me were coming.”
“But no constituent deserves this treatment. Governors must respect the people they work for,” Smith tweeted.
Hariri suggested Noem may not have even seen the ad herself and suggested Noem’s Political Action Committee “Kristi For Governor” likely paid someone out-of-state to “take one of its citizens and try to vilify them in an attempt to vilify another citizen of the state.”
South Dakota’s campaign finance reports for the pre-general election aren’t due until Monday, Oct. 24. In the latest filing from May 23, “Kristi For Governor” had a balance of $7.7 million with income of $3 million and spending of $1.9 million.
That report said “Kristi For Governor” spent $153,618 on advertising.
State reports show only lump-sum spending by category, such as advertising, salaries or travel, and don’t require dates or recipients’ names. Federal reports itemize each expenditure, including date, recipient and type.
Noem also runs at least two federal PACs – the Federal Election Commission by Keeping Republican Ideas Strong, Timely & Inventive (KRISTI) committee. Those weren’t cited on the latest ad.
“Whatever you feel about the governor, whatever you feel about Jamie Smith. I think we can all agree. We don’t want any more of this,” Hariri wrote. “Stop accepting it. Then maybe we can stop expecting it.”
This is a developing story, stay with KELOLAND News for more updates online and on-air.