A four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore with Donald Trump’s face etched on it, which was gifted to him by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, has been pictured for the first time.
Noem presented the former president with the sculpture after he made a speech at the site on July 3, 2020, ahead of the Fourth of July celebrations.
The replica was never revealed to the public and little was known about it other than a disclosure filing with the Office of Government Ethics that suggest it cost $1,100. Noem’s office has said that it was funded by private donors, not taxpayers’ money.
The existence of the gift was first reported by the New York Times four days after Trump’s 2020 speech, but a photo of the sculpture showing Trump’s face etched to Abraham Lincoln’s has not been seen until now.
Trump said in a tweet about a month after his speech that it ‘sounds like a good idea’ to put him on Mount Rushmore, after the Times claimed that a White House aide reached out to Noem to discuss the plan.
The president, who has long floated the idea, denied that he had ever requested having himself added to the monument. But, he said, it was a fine idea, given his accomplishments.
Former President Donald Trump was gifted a replica of Mount Rushmore by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Its cost was set at $1,100 and it was funded by private donors, not taxpayers’ money
One of Donald Trump’s reported secrets is that he’s always wanted to feature on the memorial
Mount Rushmore was started in 1927, and never completed. Work ended with the death of sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1941. Borglum chose to carve the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development and preservation, respectively.
After his July speech at Mount Rushmore last year, Trump tweeted that it was a ‘good idea’ to have his face added to the landmark on the Lakota people’s sacred Black Hills.
‘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.
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.’
In his July3, 2020 speech, Trump blasted ‘cancel culture’ and defended Mount Rushmore, a monument he deeply admires
President Donald Trump with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who gifted to former President with a replica of Mount Rushmore with himself sculpted on 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.’
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, last 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.
In getting the sculpture made, Noem’s staff contacted Dallerie Davis, a local art agent and realtor based in Rapid City, who represents several sculptors in the state, according to Davis and another person working in Noem’s office who chose to remain anonymous.
Noem’s office reportedly needed the Mount Rushmore statuette to be built in a month, just in time for the former President’s speech, which took place on July 3, 2020.
Mount Rushmore’s massive measurements are: 27 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 8-1/2 inches deep. It features the following four presidents (left to right): George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Davis thought of Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby, a local sculpting team in Aberdeen South Dakota, who formed the art Studio Bad River Artworks with countless pieces on display in the state and across the country, especially in the Midwest, according to the Daily Beast.
Leuning and Treeby were not only reputed for their excellent around the clock, but above all else, they were Trump supporters, Davis said.
Applying what’s commonly known as ‘lost wax casting’, an ancient technique that uses a clay model, hot wax and molten bronze, the pair managed to graft a bust of Trump in his usual suit and tie outfit onto mini-Mount Rushmore.
Only three copies were made, according to Leuning and Treeby, with one being gifted to Trump, and the other two to the unknown donors.
The pica is considered to be ‘bookshelf-sized’, Leuning told the Daily Beast. It’s measurements are: 27 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 8-1/2 inches deep.
The two sculptors, said they were asked to keep mum about the project until its unveiling to Trump.
Noem’s communications director, Ian Fury, said in the following statement about the sculpture’s funding: ‘As Governor Noem has said in the past, her philosophy towards giving gifts is to always give the person something that they’ll appreciate, and that’s how she approached this sculpture,’ Fury said.
‘No taxpayer dollars went into this gift—it was paid for by two donors.’
Leuning and Treeby, said they voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections, who easily won over South Dakota both times.
They remain supporters of his today, and Treeby said she would vote for the one-time president again if he runs in 2024, although Leuning is considering other options.
‘I’d vote for Noem or the Florida guy,’ he said, referring to Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, who is rumored to be Trump’s running-mate should he consider to run for high office again.
Lee Leuning (left) and Sherri Treeby (right) made the replica a month before the replica was given as a gift to Trump
Perhaps one of the reasons for which Trump has their votes is tied to the change in Mount Rushmore’s historical and artistic value, which they say has changed over time.
Under Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, the grand sculpture was praised for its historical significance and splendor.
However, under Trump came, they complained that the angle had turned to white supremacy and that the mountain had been wrongfully taken from the Lakota people ever since a U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 1980.
Critics of Mount Rushmore have also questioned the decision to make a sculpture of the four presidents because of certain biographical details about them.
They argue that Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt shouldn’t be on the mountain because the first two were both slaveholders; Lincoln was unpopular among many Native Americans for allowing the execution of 39 Indians after the Dakota War in 1892, and Roosevelt had made comments about ‘inferior’ races during his presidency.
Borglum, the sculptor, had ties to the Ku Klux Klan and he also worked on Stone Mountain in Georgia, which was a massive tribute to Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, before moving to South Dakota.
He left Georgia after a dispute and his work was blown off the mountain.
In his July 2020 speech, Trump took a swipe at ‘cancel culture’ and defended the monument named for another wealthy New Yorker, Charles Rushmore.
Former President Donald Trump (left) and First Lady Melania Trump (right) watch on as South Dakota Army National Guard Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over during an event at Mount Rushmore on July 3, 2020
‘This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore,’ he said.
‘They defile the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Today, we will set history and history’s record straight.’
‘Before these figures were immortalized in stone, they were American giants in full flesh and blood, gallant men whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known.’
Leuning and Treeby praised the former president for defending Mount Rushmore’s creation.
‘It’s a fabulous job,’ Leuning said. ‘It’s an amazing job. There’s not one iota of racism in it.’
They also pointed to the economic impact it has had on South Dakota, as the monumental memorial boasts approximately three million tourists per year.
‘We’re working artists,’ Leuning said. ‘We’re prostitutes for art. We do art for money.’
They said the only regret they have about their involvement with the Trump replica is that they were not present when Noem gave it to him before the speech.
‘We weren’t invited,’ Leuning said. ‘We were told he loved it.’