Unlike his former colleagues at SDPB, Seth Tupper isn’t afraid to objectively state that Monae Johnson won’t give a straight answer on the integrity of the 2020 election:
Johnson is a Republican who will become South Dakota’s top elections official if she wins the Nov. 8 race for secretary of state. She has dodged questions about the 2020 election in recent interviews, including with Keloland Media Group and South Dakota Public Broadcasting, and she did the same with me prior to the launch of South Dakota Searchlight.
I asked Johnson, “Do you think the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent?”
“That I don’t know,” she said. “I’m thinking here in South Dakota, President Trump won the election. But President Biden, he’s the one that won the nation, so he’s our president now. And for me, I wasn’t in office at the time. I wasn’t even in the Secretary of State’s Office. I want to move forward and bring that trust forward. The way to do that is more transparency.”
I followed up with a similar question.
“Do you think the election was stolen from Donald Trump?”
She paused before answering and then said, “I’m going to leave that question up to those people that are actually in the fight for it.”
I told her she could end up “in the fight” if she wins and Trump runs for president in two years.
“Well, that would be going forward,” she said. “So I don’t want to dwell on the 2020 election. I want to move forward to this one. And I know that’s what you all want, but I’m not going to answer it.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because then you guys will just peg me as an election denier,” Johnson said. “So I want to move forward.”
I asked her to clear the air. If she’s being “pegged” as an election denier, is that a fair characterization?
“No, I don’t think that’s fair to peg me as an election denier when integrity and transparency is what everyone wants,” she said. “That’s why I’m running.”
And so it went. Getting a direct answer on the 2020 election proved impossible. All the while, Johnson seemed unaware of the contradiction inherent in her own non-answers: She was touting her devotion to transparency, even as she refused to answer questions she didn’t like [Seth Tupper, “The Trouble with Monae Johnson and Jell-O,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2022.10.28].
Unlike SDPB, Tupper pressed Johnson on her dodge, and his responsible journalistic pressing made clearer Johnson’s unwillingness to deny the Big Lie and acknowledge plain fact.
Johnson has refused to acknowledge the proven legitimacy of the 2020 election in two out of three interviews. In the two interviews where journalists pressed the question rather than quietly accepting her initial dodge, Johnson revealed her unfitness to serve as an honest election chief committed to a plain reading of the ballots.