South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her decision not to sign a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in female sports in a heated exchange with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on his show Monday.
"The Tucker Carlson Tonight" host explained to viewers that the bill, which is largely popular in Noem's state, nearly passed with her support until "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 fired back. "I could sign the bill the way that it is today ... but it wouldn't solve the problem."
The Republican governor said she returned the bill to the legislature over what she termed "style and form," adding that she will sign it if lawmakers agree to her desired revisions.
"This bill would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota," she said. " And it would actually prevent women from being able to participate in collegiate sports. So what I have done is I have asked the legislature ... to change the bill."
Noem said the bill would allow the NCAA to take punitive action against South Dakota.
"We have had to fight hard to get any tournaments to come to South Dakota," she said. "When they took punitive action against us we would have to litigate, and legal scholars that I have been consulting with for many, many months say I would very likely lose those litigation efforts."
"Wait," Carlson interjected. "So you are saying the NCAA threatened you ... they said 'If you sign this, we 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 are caving to the NCAA?" he emphasized.
Noem dismissed Carlson's insinuation as "completely wrong," and reiterated her commitment to protecting women's sports.
Her strategy, she explained, involves the creation of a coalition to keep the NCAA from "bullying the state of South Dakota."
"Listen, I'm sick and tired of the NCAA threatening states, challenging us and bullying us, so we are going to build a coalition of leaders, athletes and people who want to protect women's sports," she said.
When Carlson questioned why Noem doesn't take a more forceful "bring it on" approach to fight in the "court of public opinion and defend principle," the staunch conservative responded, "Tucker, you are preaching my sermon."
"Listen," Noem continued. "I'm not interested in a participation trophy. I'm not interested in picking a fight that we can't win. I am a problem-solver ... and I have been bullied for the last year by liberals, Tucker. I'm not going to let anybody from the NCAA, from any big business, I'm not even going to let conservatives on the right bully me. I'm going to solve the problem.
"I'm going to make sure that we are building strength in numbers and we are going after the NCAA and make sure that we are keeping only girls playing in girls' sports."