Donald Trump has tweeted that it ‘sounds like a good idea’ to put him on Mount Rushmore, after the New York Times claimed that a White House aide reached out to the governor of South Dakota to discuss the plan.
The president, who has long floated the idea, denied on Sunday evening that he had ever requested having himself added to the monument.
But, he said, it was a fine idea, given his accomplishments.
‘This is Fake News by the failing @nytimes & bad ratings @cnn,’ he tweeted, in response to the article.
‘Never suggested it although, based on all of the many things accomplished during the first 3 1/2 years, perhaps more than any other Presidency, sounds like a good idea to me!’
The request by the White House aide was made last year, a Republican official told The New York Times.
The White House, asked about the request, did not deny that it had taken place, and instead replied that it was a federal, not state, monument.
Trump first raised the prospect of having his face carved on the historic site soon after he took office, in January 2017.
Kristi Noem, who at the time was a Congresswoman representing South Dakota, said he mentioned the idea during that first meeting.
‘He said: “Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand,”‘ Noem recalled.
‘I shook his hand, and I said: “Mr President, you should come to South Dakota sometime. We have Mount Rushmore.”
‘And he goes: “Do you know it’s my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?” ‘
Noem said she thought he was joking.
‘I started laughing,’ she said. ‘He wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious.’
Later that year, Trump raised it again – this time in public, at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, in July.
‘I’d ask whether or not you think I will someday be on Mount Rushmore, but here’s the problem: If I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say ‘he believes he should be on Mount Rushmore,’ he said.
‘So I won’t say it, OK? I won’t say it.’
Maureen McGee-Ballinger, public information officer at Mount Rushmore, told The Argus Leader that workers are asked daily whether any president can be added.
For years, people have suggested Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, among others. A website has been set up advocating for Obama.
McGee-Ballinger said it was impossible.
‘There is no more carvable space up on the sculpture,’ she said.
‘When you are looking on the sculpture, it appears there might be some space on the left next to Washington or right next to Lincoln.
‘You are either looking at the rock that is beyond the sculpture (on the right), which is an optical illusion, or on the left, that is not carvable.’
Mount Rushmore was started in 1927, and never completed. Work ended with the death of sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1941.
Noem, who in 2018 was elected the first female governor of South Dakota, had long hoped that Trump would visit her state for the July 4 fireworks at the site.
When he did, this year, she presented him with a four-foot replica of the site, which included his image carved alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Noem was rewarded for her efforts with a trip on Air Force One after the July 4 event.
The attention, however, led to rumors that the 48-year-old had her eye on Mike Pence’s job as vice president.
Three weeks later Noem flew to Washington DC to meet with Pence and, the paper reported, reassure him that she was not interested in his job.
There is no suggestion that Trump is looking to replace him.
Yet Noem is seen as a rising star in the Republican party.
The governor has installed a TV studio in her state capitol, become a Fox News regular and started taking advice from Trump’s former 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who still has the president’s ear.
Next month, she’ll address a county Republican dinner in Iowa.
‘There seems like there might be some interest on her part — it certainly gets noticed,’ Jon Hansen, a Republican state representative in South Dakota, said of Noem’s positioning for national office.
Lewandowski said Noem was a star who ‘has a huge future in Republican politics.’