Cal Jillson, Political Science, comments on the all-American rise of Katrina Pierson, Donald Trump’s unlikely spokeswoman

Daily Dot

Originally Posted: July 12, 2016

Picture the average Donald Trump supporter in your head. Whomever you pictured probably looks nothing like Katrina Pierson.

A single mother, Pierson voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and served on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign in 2012. But it’s Pierson who supplies the average Trump supporter with their dinner table talking points.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, tapped the 39-year-old Pierson to be his national spokeswoman in November. According to Politico, Pierson had impressed Trump, whom she met on the campaign trail while working for Cruz.

Pierson’s ascent into the spotlight of U.S. politics is as much the quintessential all-American story of a self-made life as it is unlikely.

As spokeswoman, Pierson serves as the Trump campaign’s most visible form of damage control. Over the course of nearly nine months, Pierson has served as Trump’s main line of defense on the broadcast news circuit, maintains an active social media presence, and scores regular appearances before CNN’s Don Lemon and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

To most PR people, defending Trump might seem like a tall order. But Pierson seemed to be well aware of that when she signed on to the job. The native of Garland, Texas, exhibits an admiration for Trump and his message that sometimes seems limitless. Even when her boss offends women, Muslims, or people of color, Pierson stands by his side.

“Perhaps Mr. Trump could have gone out and blamed Brexit on a video that never existed and maybe the media would have been okay with that.”
“The truth is, no one truly interesting is universally liked. So, most of the spin is to correct the biased reporting when he is pulled out of context,” Pierson said in a December interview with the Dallas Morning News. “The things he says are only controversial because we have evolved into a cupcake society. Everyone is offended by everything thanks to years of political correctness.”

Pierson’s disregard for political correctness is clear. You may be familiar with Pierson as the Trump official who retorted “So what, they’re Muslim!” in the middle of a debate with S.E. Cupp on Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration. Or from when Pierson tweeted, “Are there any purebreeds left?” during the 2012 election, referring to the fathers of then President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney being born overseas. Pierson also referred to President Obama on Twitter as the “head Negro in charge.” Like Obama, Pierson is half black.

When #TrumpGirlsBreaktheInternet began trending on Twitter, Pierson gamely jumped on the bandwagon.

Pierson, much like her boss, is candid and outspoken on both social media and cable news. When Pierson defends one of Trumps’ controversial positions on immigration, women, or national security, it will often add more fuel to the fire. If one of Trump’s statements lack any basis in fact, Pierson will often insist that it does. After Politifact found Trump’s claims on the vetting process to admit Syrian refugees into the United States false, Pierson retorted, “We’re not going to base national security off PolitiFact or even the United Nations.”

If one of Trump’s statements just seems ill-timed or insensitive, Pierson will often outright deflect. Trump was criticized for pointing out that one of the merits of Brexit was that it would bring more people to his golf course in Scotland; when asked to explain the faux pas, Pierson changed the subject to the Benghazi scandal, incorrectly stating that a YouTube video that sparked protests in the Middle East never existed.

“Perhaps Mr. Trump could have gone out and blamed Brexit on a video that never existed and maybe the media would have been okay with that,” Pierson said.

Such an approach has picked up plenty of criticism, even from Republicans.

“[Pierson] is a vital and integral part of Donald Trump’s plan to lose the election and hand the White House over to Hillary Clinton,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy in an email to the Daily Dot. “She is a message train wreck.”

Others, meanwhile, have a more positive assessment of Pierson’s ability to control the message of a candidate as unpredictable as Trump—even if Pierson still seems like an odd choice for a major campaign spokeswoman.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said in an interview with the Daily Dot that Trump’s hiring of Pierson was “deeply surprising” to him given her lack of experience. Jillson admitted his first thoughts upon hearing that Trump had picked Pearson was, “What the hell was he thinking? How did he even find out about her?”

Despite her relative newness to the world of national politics and presidential elections, Pierson has risen to the challenge, Jillson said.

“On the whole, she has not had the difficulty in being a spokeswoman that I would have expected her to have,” Jillson said. “There was no reason to believe when she was selected out of Dallas that she knew anything about national security, military affairs, even national domestic politics.” READ MORE

How will Fox News move forward after Roger Ailes lawsuit?

Boston Herald Radio

Originally Posted: July 12, 2016

The future of Fox News is in question given the precarious position of chief executive Roger Ailes. As the furor around a sexual harassment suit filed by former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson grows, the 21st Century Fox-owned network could be looking for new leadership.

The network’s parent has said it’s conducting an internal review of the allegations made about Ailes, who signed a new contract in June 2015 that keeps him at the helm of Fox News through 2018. He said in a statement last week that Carlson’s charges are “false” and “retaliatory.”

But if Ailes is ousted as a result of the investigation, there’s no telling whether other Fox executives or on-air talent could bolt. Several female Fox News employees, including Maria Bartiromo and Greta Van Susteren, have spoken out in his defense, while other women have come forward with stories of past harassment from Ailes.

No matter the outcome of this legal imbroglio, Fox News is coming face to face with challenges regarding the ways audiences gain access to information and significant shifts in cultural attitudes as new populations join its viewership base. “As of this moment, Fox News is in a better position than any of the other cable-news networks, but that’s no guarantee it will automatically be that way in the future,” said Matthew Wilson, an associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist Universityin Dallas. “They face a variety of challenges, on the horizon, to their current predominant positioning.” READ MORE

Listen: Matthew Wilson, Political Science, on Clinton email

KTSA radio

Originally Posted: July 2016

What’s Next With Clinton’s Email?

She’s essentially off the hook but the email scandal will continue to follow Hilary Clinton throughout the campaign.

Matthew Wilson at SMU says he suspects Republicans will use the FBI Director’s comments to Clinton in political adds as they attempt to make her look out of touch and not trustworthy.

Wilson says most people already feel that way so it’s not going to change public perception of her.

Wilson doesn’t think the outcome will have much of an impact on Clinton’s campaign for President.

Meanwhile, Congressman Lamar Smith says he has a great deal of respect for the FBI Director but he feels if you put national security at risk, you need to be prosecuted.

“I’m a little bit surprised, maybe even disappointed that he didn’t recommend that.”

Smith says what happens next is up to the American people.

“I do think the American people will have to think long and hard about whether they want Hilary Clinton to be President of the United States given her endangering national security.” LISTEN

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Texas Senator John Cornyn files bill to revoke Hillary Clinton’s security clearance


Originally Posted: June 7, 2016

Texas Senator John Cornyn is taking the next step in the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, the Republican Senator introduced a bill that if passed, would revoke the security clearance of the presumptive Democratic nominee and anyone else found to have acted extremely carelessly with classified information.

That’s how FBI Director James Comey described Mrs. Clinton’s actions while Secretary of State.

Cornyn said, “It’s really important that we send a firm message. I think that should mean at minimum that they forfeit the privilege of having a security clearance.”

Colby Volkey, a retired Lt. Col. and Judge Advocate for the U.S. Marines for 13 years, prosecuted and defended officers accused of mishandling classified information.

He agrees with that Mrs. Clinton should face a hearing to determine whether her security clearance should be taken away.

“That is fair,” said Volkey. “She’s facing the possible ramifications that every member of the military does if they do the same thing.”

Volkey says Mrs. Clinton, like members of the military, would go before an administrative law judge from a National Security agency.

He says that process took up to a year for his past clients, but would obviously take place much quicker for the former Secretary of State.

Until then, Volkey says she could also be sanctioned. “There can be a notice given that we’re suspending your access to classified information so she can’t look at stuff while they’re sorting this out.”

But SMU Political Science professor Matthew Wilson predicts the Obama administration wouldn’t allow that.

“But if it were to happen, I think symbolically, it would be a huge slap in the face,” said Wilson. “It would be really hard to run for the Presidency of the United States while the government has already decided you’re not trustworthy with confidential information.”

Senator Cornyn has also sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch demanding the Justice Department release the report and any transcript from the FBI’s interview with Mrs. Clinton.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said Republican efforts to keep this issue alive would backfire.

Republicans disagree. READ MORE

Anger, Relief After FBI Director Recommends No Charges Against Hillary Clinton

CBS 11 News

Originally Posted: July 5, 2016

DALLAS (CBS11) – Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in the clear after FBI Director James Comey recommended that no criminal charges be filed against her.

She had been under investigation for her use of personal email serverswhile serving as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

Comey said during a news conference Tuesday morning while there is no evidence Mrs. Clinton intended to break the law, “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Comey said investigators found there were 110 emails in 52 email chains that were classified when they were sent.

Eight of those email chains had what’s considered top secret information.

Thirty-six email chains had secret information, and eight email chains had confidential information.

The FBI Director said some of Clinton’s emails could have been accessed by hostile actors.

Tom Giboney of Dallas had a top secret security clearance as a planner in the U.S. Army. He took part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and also went to Iraq.

Giboney says he’s outraged by the FBI’s decision.

“Horribly angry,” said Giboney. “It’s unbelievable to have the FBI Director say what they found and then say they weren’t going to do anything.”

He says if he mishandled classified, secret, and top-secret information, he would have been locked up.

“Even if you made a mistake, it would be a career terminator, if not a criminal action. I think everyone understood that,” said Giboney. “One top secret message would have ended my career, probably criminal action. Eight, I’d be in Fort Leavenworth prison.”

Now that the former Secretary of State won’t face criminal charges, SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says she can focus on issues and no longer worry about something that could derail her campaign.

“The great Damocles sword hanging over the Clinton campaign was the possibility of an FBI recommendation to indict. That would have been extraordinarily destructive,” said Jillson. “They’re celebrating in the campaign today.”

Jillson says the FBI Director’s announcement will give Mrs. Clinton a boost among doubters in her own party.

“More Democrats who’ve had reservations about Hillary Clinton may take this as a vindication and come back to the party’s nominee,” said Jillson.

Republicans though say the FBI director’s statements prove Clinton repeatedly lied to the public about her private email server.

Wade Emmert, a Dallas attorney and former Dallas County Republican Party Chair said, “I think it calls into question her judgment. When she ran in 2008 against Barack Obama, her call to action was who do you want to call at 3am? Well, not her either because apparently other people could be listening in.”

The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump criticized the FBI Director’s decision Tuesday.

“It was no accident that charges were not recommended against Hillary the exact same day as President Obama campaigns with her for the first time. Folks – the system is rigged. The normal punishment, in this case, would include losing authority to handle classified information, and that too disqualifies Hillary Clinton from being President,” said Trump.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton, who campaigned with President Obama Tuesday afternoon, say they’re ready for the attack ads.

Terry Jones, a Hillary Clinton supporter and delegate to the national convention said, “One of the great things about this campaign is that Donald Trump is her opponent. So he can try to hit her with this, but he’s given us so much material that whatever he tries, we throw right back at him.”

Jones says he was relieved when he heard the FBI Director’s news conference.

In a statement, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said, “As the Secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.” READ MORE

How Benghazi will shape 2016 presidential race

Christian Science Monitor

Originally Posted: June 28, 2016

The final report of the House Select Committee on Benghazi is out, and the news for Hillary Clinton is both good and bad.

On the plus side, for Mrs. Clinton, the committee didn’t make any major new revelations, in general, and did not target her for blame specifically. The 800-page report affirmed the conclusions of previous investigations – that the United States’ national security apparatus, including the Clinton-led State Department, was ill-equipped to protect the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, and had not heeded warnings about risks to the facilities.

On the down side, Benghazi is back in the spotlight, and that, by definition, is bad news for the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee. The retelling of the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack, which left the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead, brings the worst episode of Clinton’s four years as secretary of State back to the headlines. READ MORE

Brexit De-Brief: 10 Things Learned at Tower Center ‘Populism’ Talk

Overheard @SMU

Originally Posted: June 24, 2016

European political insider Sergey Lagodinsky was guest speaker for the recent “Populism in Europe and Germany” event sponsored by SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies. Lagodinsky, a Berlin-based attorney/author/political commentator who heads the EU/North America Department of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, was introduced by Tower Center Director James Hollifield. (Photo credit: Flickr)

1) “Reactive populism is on the rise in Europe and the U.S.,” Hollifield said before the talk. “Until recently Germany has escaped this trend. The bitter experience of Nazism seems to have inoculated Germany from radical-right politics. But will Germany continue to buck the trend?”

2) “Welcome to the Age of Populism.” Opening his discussion with this remark, Lagodinsky explained that while populism in America traditionally has been viewed as a positive reinforcement of democracy, “in Europe it carries a negative connotation of nationalism, distrust of government, anger over a stagnant economy and, chiefly, the growing migrant crisis.”

3) Populist parties vary, but share one “zero point”: “The European Union represents everything they dislike,” Lagodinsky said.


Democrats End Sit-In with No Vote on Gun Legislation


Originally Posted: June 23, 2016

After a sit-in that lasted more than a day, House Democrats walked out of the Capitol on Thursday without any scheduled votes on gun control, which had been their goal in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida nightclub.

“It’s a new dawn and a new day in our fight,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The Democrats sat on the floor of the House, and members spoke for more than 24 hours. They are calling for background checks on every gun sale and banning gun sales to anyone on a no-fly or terror watch list.

In a very chaotic scene that broke protocol on the floor, Democrats screamed as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for a vote on a matter unrelated to the gun issue during the sit-in.

Ryan called the sit-in a publicity stunt, but U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who was on the floor for the demonstration, disagrees.

“I think this is awful to call this a publicity stunt when you talk about the lives that have been lost, when you are talking about the public safety of America,” said Veasey.

Lawmakers pleaded with the public to call their representatives to ask for a vote. NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine checked with members of the Texas delegation about this.

Veasey’s office said their phone was ringing off the hook. Most other representatives said they have heard from voters, too, but some say they have heard more from voters who are against more gun regulation.

“We have never seen this takeover of the floor. It reminded me of what other countries, third-world countries, do in their legislative bodies, not the United States. A true disappointment,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.

Cal Jillson, professor of politics at Southern Methodist University, believes the Democrats did accomplish something.

“Well, at the end of the day it increases the visibility of these gun issues, and to the Democrats’ benefit and the Republicans’ detriment, because about 85 percent of the American public believe it makes sense to have gun control – stop someone on a terrorist watch list who couldn’t get on an airplane from buying a gun,” Jillson said. “The Republicans are saying, ‘No, that’s too strict,’ the public is saying, ‘What, that’s too strict? These are potential terrorists.'”

“The Republican argument is that people can get on the watch list wrongly, but a lot of people are on there are on there rightly rather than wrongly. And so the Republicans are in a very difficult position on the terrorist watch list issue and the greater scrutiny of guns bought at gun shows,” Jillson added. READ MORE

Mixed opinions on Susan Hawk’s ability to remain district attorney

Fox News

Originally Posted: June 21, 2016

Public officials in Dallas are taking different sides about Susan Hawk and her fitness for office after she announced Monday she’s checking into mental health treatment for a third time.

Some say she is not doing the job she was elected to and that she should resign for the good of her health, the DA’s office and her political party. Others are concerned about her health and defending her office in her absence.

Hawk has checked into an Arizona psychiatric facility for continued treatment of her major depressive disorder. In May she sought treatment at a facility in Houston. The district attorney’s office has been managed by First Assistant DA Messina Madsen.

Democratic Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was measured in his comments on Tuesday.

“Right now I think the concern is on a person’s healthand I don’t want to get into comments or speculation about anything other than wish her the best on her health,” Jenkins said.

Republican commissioner Mike Cantrell defended the Republican district attorney.

“That first assistant is operating that office under polices set by Judge Hawk and they’re running that office according to those policies and its being operated in a very professional and efficient way,” Cantrell said.

SMU political science professor Cal Jillson said Hawk should resign to get healthy.

“As an objective matter she was elected to be district attorney for a 4-year period during which she has a lot of responsibilities. I don’t think she is fulfilling those responsibilities and for her own good you would think that she would resign,” Jillson said.

If Hawk resigns before Aug. 19, then the DA’s race would be on the November ballot. Should she step down after Aug. 19, Gov. Greg Abbott would appoint someone to finish out the nearly two years remaining on her term in office. READ MORE