After Donald Trump told South Dakota’s governor that it was always his dream to have his face on Mount Rushmore, a White House aide asked Gov. Kristi Noem last year if there was a way more presidents could be added to the mountainside, according to a The New York Times report.
Noem reportedly said that during her first meeting with Trump after he took office, he raised the idea of having his own bust alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
As she recalled, Trump was dead serious in his request.
“He said, ‘Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand,'” she told the Argus Leader. “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?’ “I started laughing,” she said. “He wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious.”
The White House reportedly continued to press on the idea, later asking the South Dakota governor if there would be room to add another image to the mountainside.
As Business Insider noted, it is not possible to add another face to the mountain sculpture, as the only remaining space to the left of Washington is not stable enough. But, as the report noted, Trump’s administration was still interested enough to make an inquiry to Roem’s office about the possibility.
The story appears to have taken on greater significance amid rumors that Trump could drop Vice President Mike Pence from the 2020 ticket and replace him with Noem, though the New York Times report noted that she has said that she would not want to replace the former Indiana governor.
Trump has been vocal in his admiration of the monument, holding a speech there during the Fourth of July weekend in which he extolled the virtues of the national landmark and vowed to protect it from destruction. While it was not clear if there were any real efforts to have the monument taken down, Trump referred to the growing movement to remove statues and monuments to Confederate leaders, tying in the mountainside carving with those efforts.
The speech was blasted by Trump’s critics for being overtly political during a holiday that has traditionally been free from politics. Others slammed the president for holding the speech before large crowds despite warnings from public health experts that doing so could lead to a coronavirus outbreak.