Katrina Pierson struggles to explain Trump's immigration flip-flop: "He's just changed the words he's saying"

“He hasn’t changed his position on immigration," the Trump spokeswoman said on CNN after Trump did just that

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published August 25, 2016 3:07PM (EDT)

Katrina Pierson   (CNN)
Katrina Pierson (CNN)

Katrina Pierson had been absent from CNN for a week after embarrassingly claiming on the network that "Barack Obama went into Afghanistan," in an attempt to defend her boss' claim that the President "is the "founder of ISIS."

Well, she's back -- and just in time to clean up after Donald Trump's latest mess of an immigration policy reversal.

The Trump campaign spokeswoman appeared on CNN Thursday to explain away Trump's apparent flip-flop on his proposed "deportation force" that would forcibly remove millions of undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

After firing his second campaign manager and hiring Breitbart News head Stephen K. Bannon as his campaign's new CEO and former Ted Cruz adviser Kellyanne Conway as his new campaign manager, Trump finally decided to make that long-awaited "presidential pivot."

“No citizenship,” Trump said of his new immigration plan to a Fox News immigration town hall with Sean Hannity Tuesday afternoon. “Let me go a step further," he explained of his significantly more moderate proposal, "they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them.”

Asked if the GOP nominee's remarks to Fox News indicate a flip-flop from his plans of mass deportation, Pierson offered a rather novel response.

“He hasn’t changed his position. He has changed the word he is saying,” Pierson claimed, at which point her fellow CNN panelists erupted in laughter.

“That would be a change,” Amanda Carpenter, a former top Ted Cruz staffer, bluntly retorted.

“What he has said from the beginning, he — no,” Pierson went on undeterred. “He does not want to allow people to stay in this country illegally. He does want to build the wall but that’s exactly what he said from the beginning.”

“What he has said from the beginning is that he does not want to allow people to stay in this country illegally, he does want to build the wall, but he wants to work with Congress to get things done.”

“Katrina, he has said 'get them out,'” host Erica Hill pointed out. “This is a shift, a flip-flop, whatever words you want to use.”

“No, Erica, it is how it’s being discussed now,” Pierson attempted to explain. “He said if they’re here illegally, they’ll have to go.”

“Deportation force,” Hill countered. “So, now he is shifting. Katrina, there is a definite different message that we’re hearing now.”

“There is not a different message,” Pierson promised. “He is using different words to give the message because everyone on the news is saying that he is a bigot and that he is a racist because of the words he uses. Now he is simply saying yes, we’re going to follow the law, enforce the law, which ice is immigration and customs, they do remove people from the country here illegally. He wants to start with the criminals.”

Perhaps Pierson's performances are why Donald Trump Jr. recently slammed his father's on-air surrogates.

"It’s so ridiculous I can’t even watch it anymore,” he said of CNN. “The worst [segments] are when they have a panel of eight professional — liberal, but professional — people on a panel, and they find like one Trump supporter from the street, who has no real political knowledge, and they just happen to be supporter,” Trump Jr. said. “And they put that person up against 8 people who do this for a living and try to make it seem like that’s a fair fight.”

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Donald Trump Elections 2016 Immigration Katrina Pierson Trump Immigration Flip-flop Video