Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota is cutting ties with Corey Lewandowski, one of her top political advisers, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations made against Lewandowski, who until this week was a key player in former President Trump‘s political team.
The move by Noem, a conservative governor who pundits see as a potential 2024 GOP White House contender or possible running mate, comes a day after bombshell allegations by a leading Trump fundraiser that Lewandowski made unwanted sexual advances towards the fundraiser at a recent function.
And Noem’s announcement comes the morning after the former president removed Lewandowski from running Trump’s super PAC and severed ties with his longstanding adviser and aide.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota sits down for an interview with Fox News at CPAC Dallas, on July 11, 2021 in Dallas, Texas.
Noem spokesman Ian Fury told Fox News in a statement that “Corey was always a volunteer, never paid a dime (campaign or official). He will not be advising the Governor in regard to the campaign or official office.”
Lewandowski had been advising Noem for over a year, accompanying her last autumn as the governor crisscrossed the country campaigning on behalf of Trump and down-ballot Republicans running in the 2020 elections.
He continued in that role, escorting Noem to political events this year from coast to coast as the governor – a rising star among conservatives – began building up her 2022 reelection campaign and as she helped fellow Republicans running in next year’s midterm elections. Lewandowski introduced Noem to numerous Republican donors and other rainmakers at GOP gatherings and confabs.
President Trump’s campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, center, speaks about a court order obtained to grant more access to vote counting operations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia, following Tuesday’s election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Noem’s severing of ties with Lewandowski came a day after she denied allegations from a conservative media outlet that she is having an extramarital affair with him.
“These rumors are total garbage and a disgusting lie,” the governor tweeted on Wednesday. “These old, tired attacks on conservative women are based on a falsehood that we can’t achieve anything without a man’s help.”
Pointing to her husband, Bryon Noem, the governor emphasized that “I love Bryon. I’m proud of the God-fearing family we’ve raised together. Now I’m getting back to work.”
Noem was responding to a report from American Greatness, which cited multiple unnamed sources who claimed she is romantically involved with Lewandowski.
The separate sexual misconduct allegations against Lewandowski, first reported Wednesday by Politico, involve Republican donor Trashelle Odom, who alleged that Lewandowski had repeatedly groped her – including on her legs and buttocks – and threatened her with retribution if she did not comply as he followed her during a charity event in Las Vegas.
“He repeatedly touched me inappropriately, said vile and disgusting things to me, stalked me, and made me feel violated and fearful,” Odom said in a statement to Politico.
Hours later, Trump replaced Lewandowski as head of the Make America Great Again Action super PAC and replaced him with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, another top Trump aide and loyalist.
“Corey Lewandowski will be going on to other endeavors and we very much want to thank him for his service. He will no longer be associated with Trump World,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted.
Lewandowski managed Trump’s first presidential campaign from before its inception in 2015 through the 2016 primaries. He was fired from his job in June of that year but remained close to the then-GOP presidential nominee. Lewandowski, a New Hampshire resident, led his state’s delegation to that summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
After Trump took over in the White House, Lewandowski became a top outside adviser to the then-president and played an influential advisory role in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Earlier this year Trump named Lewandowski to set up and steer his new post-presidency super PAC.
Besides Trump and Noem, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster also ended his ties with Lewandowski.
Herbster, an agricultural industry executive, recently touted a “HUGE ENDORSEMENT” from Lewandowski.
But on Thursday he issued a statement noting that Lewandowski “has been one of my senior campaign advisors as I run for governor of the state of Nebraska” and spotlighting that “I’ve asked Corey to step back from this role.”
Herbster added that he’s known Lewandowski “since 2015 when I was an early and steadfast supporter of Donald J. Trump for President” and said that “Corey and his family will remain in my prayers.”
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.