Katrina Pierson, one of the most prominent—and most controversial—surrogates for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was formally offered a top White House position, The Daily Beast has learned.
But Pierson turned down the job of deputy press secretary for reasons that still aren’t completely clear.
Current White House press secretary Sean Spicer told The Daily Beast that he personally offered Pierson—dubbed “Hurricane Katrina” by Texas Monthly and known for sporting a bullet necklace on television—the spot.
“She accepted and I was excited to have her on the team,” Spicer said in an email to The Daily Beast. “She ultimately decided to pursue another role on the Trump Team.”
“I made a personal decision to remain on the outside for now. I have plenty of time to serve,” Pierson told The Daily Beast over the weekend.
Instead, Pierson joined a new nonprofit initiative called America First Policies in order to support President Trump’s agenda on the grassroots level. The group hopes to serve as a political arm for the White House, galvanizing support and raking in money to keep the president’s support strong.
But Pierson didn’t cut her teeth during the campaign doing fundraising or ground-level organizing. She became a strident and prominent national television face for Trump who wasn’t afraid to defend him with senseless logic and arguments that generated viral clips.
In innumerable hits on CNN and Fox last year, Pierson made inconceivable claims including that President Obama started the war in Afghanistan and that Hillary Clinton suffered from the medical disorder dysphasia. It was the perfect narrative-shifting that the campaign became so adept at using.
And as one former campaign official put it to The Daily Beast, President Trump watched the hits and “LOVED them.”
“On the early campaign, she was a hired gun who was counter-narrative and effectively doing her own bookings, etc,” the official, speaking on background, told The Daily Beast. “Did on camera what we needed her to do. Really the first national surrogate we had.”
Two former campaign officials suggested to The Daily Beast that Pierson’s ultimate decision not to join the administration was due in part to an unspecified difference in opinion between her and Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
“What do you think lol,” one source emailed The Daily Beast when asked if the two camps had any conflicts. “DJT (Trump) I know wanted her in the WH.”
Pierson said any talk of a rift with her and Spicer was just untrue.
“They were both very supportive,” Pierson told The Daily Beast referring to Spicer and Priebus. “I’ve been on team Trump since the beginning so I’ll say again that it’s very strange to hear otherwise, particularly from ‘unnamed’ sources that were likely not on the Trump team in the beginning.
“People don't have to accept my decision, but that doesn't give them the right to question it or lie about it either,” Pierson added.
Spicer only had praise for her as well.
“She did a great job on the campaign and we were excited to have her [as] part of the press team,” he told The Daily Beast.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders ultimately took the role of deputy press secretary.
Last Friday, Pierson returned to television to help promote her nonprofit group, which had had a rocky, sluggish start. As The Daily Beast previously reported, in the first few months of the Trump White House, Pierson’s nonprofit America First Policies hadn’t done any real demonstrable work.
Republican super-donor Rebekah Mercer walked away due to a conflict with the nonprofit’s founder Brad Parscale, who also ran digital and data enterprises for the campaign. David Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager and close friend with Trump and White House strategist Steve Bannon also “bolted” before the project could get off the ground. (As an indication of its inauspicious beginnings, in a recent interview with The Washingtonian, Pierson was allegedly unclear as to where the nonprofit’s headquarters would be located.)
Asked about the status of the group over the weekend, Pierson told The Daily Beast that she was involved “because Brad Parscale and I decided to work on the outside of the administration to continue to help President Trump be successful.”
What are they doing exactly?
“We are working on supporting the president’s vision to make America great again,” Pierson said.
As she would tell it, the tiff between Mercer and Parscale, which sources told The Daily Beast had to do with Parscale’s refusal to show details about the enormous fortune he made during the campaign, had nothing to do with her.
“I don't know her,” Pierson said of Mercer to The Daily Beast. “I've only met her once in passing and she was very pleasant. I would hope that all of the president’s supporters work together on several projects.”
On Friday, Pierson unveiled America First Policies’ first advertisement on Fox News.
It focused on the progress of the Trump administration’s early highlights in the first 100 days, citing the appointment of Neil Gorsuch as a nominee for the Supreme Court and the approval of American pipeline developments specifically. But the unveiling was also an opportunity for Pierson to step back into the cable news circuit where she once lived and breathed throughout a majority of Trump’s presidential campaign.
After essentially disappearing from television, where she built a national brand last year, Pierson used the ad as proof that she was still working to support Trump’s agenda.
“I’ve seen a lot of that fake news lately as well,” Pierson told The Daily Beast in response to a question about her television hiatus, including a link to the March 10 appearance on Fox News. “Not sure why other than the typical haters obsessing over things that they can’t control.
“My FB [Facebook], Twitter, and Snapchat are fairly active so it's not rocket science,” she added. “It's unfortunate that there are people who lead such boring and miserable lives that they have to negatively reinvent the lives of others to project a perceived value of themselves.”
Last Thursday, Pierson also visited the White House and met with Trump. Neither side would say much about the conversation. Spicer told The Daily Beast that “she stopped by to touch base and congratulate POTUS on enacting his agenda. He thanked her for continued outstanding and dedicated support.”
But if Pierson would ever like to return to the White House on a more permanent basis, it appears the door is open.
“Sure, if she wanted to come into government,” Spicer said, in response to a question about Pierson joining the administration.
For now, Pierson would rather people just stop talking about where she ended up working.
“Why is it that the media is obsessed with my choice of employment?” Pierson told The Daily Beast. “Will there be other stories about the white men who decided not to go into the administration?”
In fact, The Daily Beast wrote a story about one such white man, former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, last week.