Trump’s not-so-secret PR weapon
© CNN

Katrina Pierson is making a name for herself as a top surrogate for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDems: Trump’s first 100 days full of broken promises to middle class Judd Gregg: Trump gets his sea legs Week ahead: US raises pressure on WikiLeaks MORE.

In her role as spokeswoman for the GOP presidential front-runner, Pierson is a fixture on cable news, stirring controversy and generating headlines with an unconventional and unapologetic style — just like her boss.

ADVERTISEMENT
Pierson responded to criticism of Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration by countering, “So what? They’re Muslim.”

She wore a necklace made of bullets on CNN and mockingly suggested wearing one made of fetuses when she caught flack. 

And she praised her boss as the man who “single-handedly brought back freedom of speech,” just weeks before he floated rolling back libel laws to fight back against journalists.  

All of those appearances made headlines and stirred controversy, the fuel for much of Trump’s campaign.

“In many ways, Katrina Pierson seems to be doing Trump in all the places where Trump doesn’t have time to do Trump,” Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University communications professor, told The Hill. 

“She has been very consistent with not only Trump’s message but Trump’s means of getting that message across,” he said.

And while Pierson doesn’t feel scripted, she’s always on message with the Trump campaign.

“He’s winning,” Pierson said on CNN in late February. “That’s all that matters.”

Pierson, 39, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, came aboard the Trump campaign in early November as the real estate magnate was soaring in polls.

She gave Trump a familiar face outside his orbit who could appear on television on his behalf to discuss policy and politics.

A Tea Party activist, Pierson had been a regular presence on Fox Business Network. In 2014, she made an unsuccessful run for Congress, challenging House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) from his right in a 2014 primary and arguing that he backed amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally.

Pierson is African-American and female, so her presence on television is a help to Trump, who is seeking to challenge the convention that his candidacy can appeal to more than whites and men.

She took on black conservative CNN commentator Tara Setmayer during an appearance in February after Setmayer questioned whether Pierson was “one of ‘the blacks” Trump likes since he “pays her to clean up his mess every day on television.”

“Republicans are very, very desperate now to where they’re turning into Democrats,” Pierson responded. “They’re using race-baiting and things like that to take down a candidate.”

The hire of Pierson wasn’t without risk.

She’s come under criticism for Tweets she once made that referred to President Obama as a “half-breed” and the “head Negro in charge.” 

She defended the tweets in a January interview, chalking it up to Internet “silliness” and noting that she was actually trying to chide those who refer to her that way. 

There’s been little sign of worry within Team Trump, which did not respond to a comment for this story.

It seems to give Pierson a freedom to speak that is uncommon for political spokespeople, who often have to stick closely to a prepared script.

While staffers for GOP candidates Ted CruzTed CruzWeek ahead in tech: Trump's antitrust pick heads before Senate Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's FDA pick Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE and Scott Walker were fired for things they wrote on Twitter, there’s been no comparable trouble for Pierson. 

“It doesn’t seem like the Trump campaign is that concerned about what she says and how she says it, which is really rare,” University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said. 

Pierson recently toured cable news channels to help control the fallout from Trump’s hesitancy to disavow an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

More recently, she pushed back at the “Never Trump” movement  in the GOP, warning it would only drive deeper divisions.

“We have a party that has left its people years ago — it has lost twice in a row and the people are tired of it,” she said last week on CNN.
 
“While Mitt Romney was out there tearing down companies and putting people out of jobs, the Trump family was building companies and creating jobs.”

After big wins on Tuesday night in Michigan and Mississippi, Pierson and the Trump campaign are going full-steam ahead, hoping to pull out victories in the winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio on Tuesday that could finish off GOP rivals Marco RubioMarco RubioTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Rubio defends Trump: 'This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing' Rubio: Shutdown would have 'catastrophic impact' on global affairs MORE and John Kasich.

“The states moving forward are definitely Mr. Trump's states,” Pierson said Monday on Fox News even before those big Trump wins. 

“We are getting closer to the end, everything is definitely converging and Mr. Trump is still the frontrunner.”