Katrina Pierson was one of Donald Trump’s most prolific surrogates during the 2016 campaign, regularly appearing on cable news to speak on his behalf. Since his inauguration, however, she’s played a much less visible role in the administration. Here’s what you need to know about Pierson and what she’s up to now.
1. She used to be a Democrat.
Pierson may be known as a powerhouse in the conservative party today but she hasn’t always favored conservative candidates. In 2008, she voted for Barack Obama, supporting the former president until he refused to wear an American flag pin on his lapel, Politico reports. This act made her rethink her political leanings and become involved with the Tea Party movement in Texas.
2. She started her career in the health-care and software industries.
After graduating from the University of Texas Dallas in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in biology, Pierson had jobs in the health-care and software industries. In 2008, she joined InVentiv Health and then, from 2009 to 2011, she worked at the Baylor Health Care System as a practice administrator. Finally, she moved to ASG Software Solutions as the company’s director of corporate affairs.
3. She used to stump for Ted Cruz.
Before she became involved in Team Trump, she worked to help Ted Cruz win his run for the Senate in 2012. Cruz continues to speak fondly of Pierson. His campaign spokesperson said he “considers Katrina a friend [and] will always be grateful for her dedication and hard work to get him elected.”
However, not everyone has such kind things to say about Pierson’s involvement in the Cruz campaign. Some have even accused her of promoting herself more than her candidate. “My 8-year-old did more work for Ted than she [Pierson] ever thought about doing,” one activist who worked on Cruz’s Senate run and his presidential campaign said to Politico.
4. She ran for Congress herself and lost.
In 2014, Pierson ran for Congress herself. She challenged Pete Sessions, the incumbent in Texas’ 32nd district. While Ted Cruz never officially endorsed her candidacy, she did receive high-profile endorsements from his father, Rafael Cruz, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The support Pierson gathered didn’t prove to be enough, however, and she lost to Sessions by 28 points in the primary.
5. She was the spokesperson for the Tea Party Leadership Fund.
After losing her congressional bid, Pierson dedicated herself to the Tea Party, signing on as the spokesperson for the Tea Party Leadership Fund. The fund came under scrutiny for spending unusually high percentages of its funding on overhead.
Pierson fired back that new PACs, like the Tea Party Leadership Fund, had to spend extra money on overhead as they got off the ground. “They just don’t understand what it stands for so they’re going to criticize it," she said.
In addition to her work with the Tea Party Leadership Fund, Pierson has also worked as a steering committee member for the Dallas Tea Party, served as a member of the Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee, and was the founder of the Garland Tea Party.
6. Her decision to join the Trump campaign was met with mixed reactions.
In November 2015, Pierson joined the Trump campaign as its national spokesperson, a move that took many familiar with her by surprise.
“I’m absolutely surprised she went to work for Trump because he’s not a conservative,” Texas state Sen. Konni Burton told Politico. Others weren’t surprised by the move at all, however. As one Texas Republican told Politico, “She is definitely very good at building her brand; she likes to be out there commenting on things. It’s a great opportunity for her.”
Pierson has even said that she identifies with Trump and his no-holds-barred approach to expressing his beliefs.
“He’s sort of not politically correct,” she said. “He sort of calls it like he sees it. I’m kind of that way, too.”
7. She became one of Trump’s main spokespeople and often made controversial or inaccurate statements.
As Trump’s spokesperson, Pierson was a regular guest on cable news shows during the 2016 campaign. Pierson regularly spread misinformation during her appearances on Trump’s behalf, something that his current White House staffers still get accused of to this day.
According to CNN, examples of such false information include claims that President Obama was responsible for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan (which led to the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory), and that Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were responsible for the 2004 death of Capt. Humayun Khan, even though they didn’t take their offices until 2009.
8. She originally wanted a White House job, but now works at a pro-Trump nonprofit.
After the campaign, many longstanding Trump supporters vied for roles in the new administration, including Pierson. She reportedly fought hard to be appointed White House press secretary.
According to The Washingtonian, Pierson says she was ultimately offered the role of deputy press secretary. Although she says she initially accepted the position, it didn’t pan out and she ended up taking a role with America First Policies, a nonprofit focused on promoting the Trump agenda.
While it’s clear that Pierson definitely did not end up working in the White House (Sarah Huckabee Sanders ended up taking on the deputy press secretary role), what’s less clear is why.
Pierson says it was a personal choice. “It was funny because, I think it might have been a week later … I called ‘em up and said, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’m gonna go over to [America First Policies],’” she told The Washingtonian. “I talked to […] staff, who were very disappointed. But they understood. Everybody said, ‘Do what you feel is in your heart.’”
A senior campaign official told The Washingtonian a different story, however. “I love Katrina, but she was bitching to everyone that they should have chosen her and not Sean [Spicer],” the source said. “It got back to Jared [Kushner] and Reince [Priebus]. And they ultimately decided they just didn’t want to deal with that sort of drama. So they 'placed' her in [America First Policies].”
9. Her role at America First Policies remains unclear.
Pierson has been working with America First Policies since the announcement of its launch on Jan. 30, but the nonprofit hasn't reported much progress so far. Its mission is to help Trump deliver on his campaign promises, but sources close to the group have said they’ve struggled to land the big donors they need.
For her part, Pierson denies these rumors. “We have several donors who want to see the president be successful,” she said. Pierson has also indicated that she will do speaking engagements on behalf of the America First Policies and that the nonprofit will run ads to raise awareness.
“We’re definitely gonna have ads. Which is gonna help,” she told The Washingtonian. “So we’ll have ads, we will continue to do media. For sure. I guess all the normal stuff that a c4 [shorthand for the IRS classification of the nonprofit] would do.”
Still, the nonprofit has no specific timeline planned out, and it remains to be seen how it will go about its work of advocating for Trump and his agenda.
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