Meet Donald Trump’s Controversial Flack

Katrina Pierson had her critics in the political world long before she went to work for the GOP presidential frontrunner.

Dec. 28,2015: Donald Trump presidential campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson discusses Hillary Clinton on Fox New's The O'Reilly Factor 
Fox News/Screengrab
S.V. Dáte
Add to Briefcase
S.V. Dáte
Dec. 29, 2015, 8 p.m.

While it may seem dif­fi­cult to top Don­ald Trump’s re­marks in their con­stant po­ten­tial for con­tro­versy, it turns out the can­did­ate may be ex­ceeded on that front by a mem­ber of his own pres­id­en­tial cam­paign staff.

When Trump called for a ban on Muslims en­ter­ing the coun­try, say­ing “we have no choice” giv­en the threat of ter­ror­ism, newly hired “na­tion­al-cam­paign spokes­wo­man” Kat­rina Pier­son on CNN re­futed the ar­gu­ment that it was dis­crim­in­at­ory this way: “So what? They’re Muslim.”

After Trump dur­ing the last GOP de­bate seemed not to un­der­stand the nuc­le­ar “tri­ad” concept, Pier­son told a Fox News audi­ence: “What good does it do to have a good nuc­le­ar tri­ad if you’re afraid to use it?”

Sally Brad­shaw, a top aide to former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush, re­spon­ded on Twit­ter to the nuc­le­ar tri­ad re­mark this way: “No words.”

Pier­son did not re­spond to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s re­quests for an in­ter­view. Cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wan­dowski answered a Na­tion­al Journ­al query about the nuc­le­ar weapons re­mark with “Nev­er saw it,” and about the Muslim com­ment by sug­gest­ing cov­er­age of a new Iowa poll show­ing Trump in the lead. On Monday, Le­wan­dowski said of Pier­son: “Kat­rina Pier­son has our full con­fid­ence.”

Pier­son is cer­tainly not new to con­tro­versy. Born to an un­mar­ried teen and grow­ing up poor in Texas, Pier­son be­came a teen­age moth­er her­self. She cred­its a shoplift­ing ar­rest at age 20 (she says she was talked in­to it by a friend to steal clothes nice enough to wear to a job in­ter­view) for turn­ing around her life. Pier­son, now 38, went on to earn an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree at a com­munity col­lege and then a bach­el­or’s in bio­logy at the Uni­versity of Texas at Dal­las.

Not long after Pres­id­ent Obama took of­fice, she be­came act­ive in tea-party polit­ics, where she dis­owned her “re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth” up­bring­ing and bought in­to the move­ment’s val­ues, she told a Re­pub­lic­an web­site in 2011. “When I found the tea party here in Dal­las, I went to one meet­ing, and I just knew that these were my people,” she told Texas­gop­vote.com. “These were the people who thought the way that I did, that felt the way that I felt, and even though I had not been polit­ic­ally in­volved but for two months, I could tell that that’s where I be­longed.”

That polit­ic­al con­ver­sion, though, did not stop her from pro­ceed­ing with two un-tea-party moves in her per­son­al life. In 2010, she un­suc­cess­fully sued the per­son­nel com­pany in­Vent­ive for lay­ing her off from her job mar­ket­ing the drug Am­bi­en to doc­tors in the Dal­las area be­cause she was Afric­an-Amer­ic­an. (The com­pany re­spon­ded in its U.S. Dis­trict Court fil­ing that the 2008 re­ces­sion forced it to elim­in­ate half its sales force, and that Pier­son had re­ceived a poor per­form­ance re­view in the months lead­ing up to the lay­offs.)

And in 2012-13, Pier­son re­ceived $11,440 in un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, even though that was the time she was vo­lun­teer­ing for Ted Cruz’s long-shot U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign and lay­ing the ground­work for her own con­gres­sion­al run against in­cum­bent Rep. Pete Ses­sions. (Ses­sions won the 2014 primary hand­ily, des­pite Pier­son’s en­dorse­ment from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Pal­in and Cruz’s fath­er, Ra­fael. Ted Cruz him­self called Pier­son “a prin­cipled con­ser­vat­ive fight­er who is ut­terly fear­less,” at a 2014 rally, but did not form­ally en­dorse her against Ses­sions.) Un­der Texas Work­force Com­mis­sion rules, re­cip­i­ents are sup­posed to be seek­ing paid em­ploy­ment dur­ing the time they are col­lect­ing be­ne­fits.

“She has a lot of bag­gage,” said Jonath­an Neer­man, former chair of the Dal­las County Re­pub­lic­an Party. “How has she man­aged to bull­shit an en­tire seg­ment of the Re­pub­lic­an Party for five years? That’s a great ques­tion.”

One GOP con­sult­ant who has on oc­ca­sion sparred with Pier­son on cable TV shows says the un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits and the dis­crim­in­a­tion law­suit don’t both­er him nearly as much as her work with the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund—one of the sev­er­al dozen polit­ic­al groups that sprang up after Obama’s elec­tion that raise many mil­lions in small dona­tions but then spend the ma­jor­ity of it on polit­ic­al con­sult­ants.

“She’s part of one of these scam PACs,” said Rick Wilson, who lives in Tal­l­a­hassee.

On Oct. 26, for ex­ample, just 14 days be­fore join­ing the Trump cam­paign, a so­li­cit­a­tion email from the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund to “draft” South Car­o­lina con­gress­man Trey Gowdy for House speak­er went out un­der Pier­son’s name—even though Gowdy had a month earli­er had stated defin­it­ively that he wasn’t even in­ter­ested in run­ning for House ma­jor­ity lead­er.

Monday morn­ing, Pier­son, now work­ing for Trump, sent out a Tweet dis­par­aging Gowdy fol­low­ing his week­end en­dorse­ment of Flor­ida Sen. Marco Ru­bio: “FTR, Trey Gowdy lost all cred­ib­il­ity when he nom­in­ated John Boehner for Speak­er so he’s per­fect for Marco Ru­bio. #Am­nesty & #Sham­nesty”

(Former speak­er Boehner last stood for that po­s­i­tion in Janu­ary—nearly 10 months be­fore Pier­son’s fun­drais­ing email.)

In the 2014 elec­tion cycle, the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund raised and spent $6 mil­lion, but only $575,000—less than 10 per­cent—went to can­did­ates or for elec­tion ads, ac­cord­ing to Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. The rest went to con­sult­ants, in­clud­ing $22,000 to Pier­son over four months for “Iowa Polit­ic­al Con­sult­ing.” So far in the 2016 cycle, Pier­son has re­ceived $21,000 from the group, and an­oth­er $10,000 for at­tend­ing events such as the Con­ser­vat­ive Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Con­fer­ence. Which means that this cycle, Pier­son has per­son­ally re­ceived 15 times the amount the group has giv­en to polit­ic­al can­did­ates.

In the Nov. 9 press re­lease an­noun­cing Pier­son’s hir­ing, Trump said: “Kat­rina un­der­stands the need for real change in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and the im­port­ance of com­pet­ence in the next elec­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
OUTLAYS TO DECREASE 2% PER YEAR
Trump Budget Would Cut $1.4 Trillion from Non-Defense Spending
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
MORE PROBLEMS FOR WHITE HOUSE
Flynn Lied To Investigators About Foreign Payments
7 hours ago
BREAKING
COMEY WANTS TO TALK TO MUELLER FIRST
Chaffetz Postpones Comey’s Testimony
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Former FBI Director Jim Comey won't be testifying before Jason Chaffetz's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday as originally planned. Chaffetz, the committee chairman, "announced Monday that Comey wants to speak with Robert Mueller, the former FBI director now serving as a special counsel overseeing the agency's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, before testifying publicly."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Examples of Plagiarism Did CNN Find in Sheriff Clarke’s Thesis?
10 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Forty-seven. The Milwaukee official is up for a position in the Department of Homeland Security.

Source:
ISOLATION VS. OPENNESS
Trump Puts Rouhani in a Tough Spot
18 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on the world to isolate Iran," to the delight of his Sunni hosts, Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, however, on Saturday, "Iranians poured into the streets by the hundreds of thousands to celebrate the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, whose message of opening up to the West helped him to trounce a hard-line challenger."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login