Pictures released before the Thanksgiving holiday showed Donald Trump with Kyle Rittenhouse, with the head of a martial arts organisation – and with his own miniature Mount Rushmore, his own visage visable next to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
The internet duly lit up.
One of the South Dakota artists behind the work, Lee Leuning, confirmed its provenance to the Daily Beast.
“Cool,” Leuning said. “That’s our piece. Definitely. That’s pretty cool.”
Leuning also said he was glad to see the maquette on display at Mar-a-Lago behind the former president, the teenager found not guilty after shooting dead two people and wounding one in Wisconsin, and the martial arts executive, because often “stuff ends up in a closet”.
Trump was given the “Mount Trumpmore” piece, also made by Sherri Treeby, by the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, last year.
The 45th president visited South Dakota in July 2020 for a speech in front of Mount Rushmore, into which are carved the faces of the first, third, 16th and 26th holders of the office.
In his speech, Trump attacked criticisms of both Mount Rushmore itself – which the supreme court ruled was constructed on land wrongly taken from the Lakota Sioux and which was made by an artist, Gutzon Borglum, with ties to the Ku Klux Klan – and reinterpretations of US history which seek to emphasise the role of racism and white supremacy.
Describing what he called “far-left fascism”, Trump said: “This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore. They defile the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.
“Today, we will set history and history’s record straight. Before these figures were immortalised 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.”
Trump was pictured so his head appeared in sequence with those on the mountain. He later denied reports that the White House asked how his likeness could be added to the monument – but said it “sounds like a good idea to me!”
Noem, a rising Republican star said to have presidential ambitions of her own, has said her comparatively tiny gift to Trump cost $1,100 and was paid for by donors who retain two copies.
In September, a spokesman said the governor’s “philosophy towards giving gifts is to always give the person something that they’ll appreciate, and that’s how she approached this sculpture”.
Leuning and Treeby are Trump supporters. They were not invited to attend his South Dakota speech but Treeby recently told the Beast she was a Trump fan and would vote for him in 2024 if he ran again – which he remains free to do despite inciting a deadly attack on Congress in an attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden.
If Trump did not run again, she said, she would “vote for Noem or the Florida guy”, a reference to the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, Trump’s only remotely serious rivals in polls regarding potential Republican nominees.