Abigail Disney evokes Old Yeller in plea to reject Republicans after Kristi Noem kills dog | US news

Abigail Disney evokes Old Yeller in plea to reject Republicans after Kristi Noem kills dog | US news


Evoking the classic Disney tearjerker Old Yeller, in which a family is forced to put down their beloved dog, the US film-maker and campaigner Abigail Disney exhorted voters to oppose the Republican party of Kristi Noem, the South Dakota governor whose story of killing Cricket, a 14-month-old dog, shocked the world and seemingly dynamited her hopes of being Donald Trump’s running mate.

“My great-uncle Walt Disney knew the magic place animals have in the hearts of families everywhere,” Disney wrote in an email released by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and obtained exclusively by the Guardian.

“When he released Old Yeller, the heart wrenching story stayed with people because no one takes the killing of a family pet lightly.

“At least that’s what I thought until I read about potential Trump VP Kristi Noem shooting her family’s puppy – a story that has shocked so many of us.”

Noem describes the day she killed Cricket (and an unnamed goat) in No Going Back, a campaign memoir published this week but first reported late last month by the Guardian.

Cricket, a 14-month-old wirehaired pointer, met her fate in a gravel pit because Noem deemed her “untrainable” after she disrupted a pheasant hunt and killed a neighbour’s chickens. The goat, which had not been castrated, was deemed too aggressive and smelly and a danger to Noem’s children. By the governor’s own admission, it took two blasts with a shotgun to finish the goat off.

Noem has repeatedly defended her story as indicative of her willingness to do unpleasant but necessary things in life as well as politics. Nonetheless, she has reportedly slipped way down Donald Trump’s list of possible vice-presidential picks, should the presumptive Republican nominee avoid prison on any of 88 criminal charges and should he beat Biden in November.

Two weeks after the Guardian report, shock and revulsion over Noem’s story continues to ring throughout the US. This week, amid a string of uncomfortable interviews even on usually friendly rightwing networks, also questioning an untrue claim to have met the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the governor cut short a promotional tour for her book.

In her email in support of the PCCC, Disney said: “Walt Disney also understood story telling. Together, we must make sure all voters see how this sad Kristi Noem episode is part of the larger story of the 2024 election: America could vote into the White House extremists that glorify cruelty and lack basic empathy and compassion.”

Kristi Noem’s book, seen in a Maryland store. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Asking readers to post pictures of beloved pets and the hashtag #UnleashTheVote, Disney also promoted a petition against “Trump and extreme Republicans who lack the character to lead our nation”.

Old Yeller, which the Guardian called “one of the best and most poignant boy-and-his dog movies”, was released in 1957. It tells the story of a family in Texas in 1869 that adopts a large yellow dog.

Disney said: “In Old Yeller, the family comes to see the lovable stray dog as an indispensable member of the family. The film’s climactic moment is a heartbreaking one, when the father has no choice but to shoot Old Yeller when the dog contracts rabies because of the inevitable threat to their lives – and, out of compassion, to end the suffering the dog would have to endure.

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“Noem shot her family’s 14-month-old puppy after a hunting trip, in her own account, because she was too hard to teach. ‘I hated that dog,’ she wrote, framing the killing of a puppy as an example of strength.

“Kristi Noem is not strong. Like Trump, she is cruel and selfish.”

Listing positions taken by Trump and supporters like Noem, Disney said: “If Kristi Noem was actually strong, she would stand up to the January 6 insurrectionists instead of celebrating them. Or she would make billionaires pay their fair share of taxes instead of lining up for their campaign donations.

“If she had real courage, she might even criticise the supreme court for abolishing abortion rights or making it easier to flood our streets and schools with guns.

“True strength is not demonstrated through harshness, brutality, or callous indifference, but through steadfast kindness and compassion. Our pets teach most of us this lesson every day through their loyalty and unconditional love.

“Let’s make sure Americans demand leaders who do the same when it comes time to vote.”



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