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Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, takes part in a forum in Newtown, Pa.,  on May 11, 2022. (AP) Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, takes part in a forum in Newtown, Pa.,  on May 11, 2022. (AP)

Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, takes part in a forum in Newtown, Pa., on May 11, 2022. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 17, 2022

Senate hopeful Kathy Barnette criticized Trump until he won 2016 nomination, then became a supporter

If Your Time is short

  • Barnette attacked Trump during his run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but became a supporter after he won the nomination.

Just before Pennsylvania Republicans choose their Senate nominee, surprise contender Kathy Barnette was attacked by a super PAC that supports Dr. Mehmet Oz, the candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump. 

"Don’t trust phony Kathy Barnette," says the narrator in a TV ad from Our American Century. "Barnette pretends she’s America First, but repeatedly attacked President Trump."

Barnette, who vaulted to the top tier of candidates days before the May 17 primary, criticized Trump during his run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 

But after he won the nomination, she pivoted, became a Trump supporter and has campaigned on a platform similar to Trump’s "America First" in style.

Anti-Trump until he won 2016 nomination

We did not reach Our American Century, a conservative PAC based in McLean, Virginia, that provides no contact information on its website. We received no replies to emails we sent to addresses listed on the organization statement the group filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The group’s ad backed up its claim against Barnette by citing excerpts from a May 11, 2022, article on Breitbart, a conservative website. 

In four Twitter posts from September 2015, Barnette called Trump’s debate performance "horrid," said he would not be a good president, called him liberal" and said his moral character is "questionable."

"Did u c d last Presidential Debate. #Trump2016 was horrid." — tweet

"#Trump2016 is good 4 beers & barbeque. BUT, not as President."  — tweet 

#Trump2016 is JUST AS LIBERAL as d leaders we currently hv n office. #MoralityMatters & Trump does not rank high in it…" — tweet

"#Trump2016 moral character is questionable!" — tweet

The article also noted that Barnette wrote in her 2020 book, "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America," that Trump was her least favorite Republican presidential candidate in 2016. "Out of 16 presidential candidates, Donald Trump was no. 16 on my preferred list," she wrote. 

Then became Trump supporter

Much of Barnette’s book, however, praises Trump.

Barnette wrote that historically low Black unemployment was the result of Trump’s "proactive support for Black communities." She said he enacted prison reform, revitalized urban areas, and forgave loans to four historically Black colleges and universities. Trump is "an extraordinary man with amazing stamina and broad shoulders capable of carrying the weight of his office," she wrote.

Featured Fact-check

Barnette’s campaign website includes a page that has a video in which Barnette says she is on her way to vote for Trump in the 2016 general election, and a 2017 tweet in which she writes about why she supports him. 

Barnette’s campaign also cited to PolitiFact that page and her book.

Barnette’s support for Trump also includes participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, protest at the Capitol that turned into an insurrection

A week earlier, Barnette posted a video saying she was organizing buses to travel to Washington, D.C., for the protest. 

On April 27, 2022, Barnette told a Philadelphia TV station that she attended the protest but did not enter the Capitol. Asked if the 2020 election was stolen, she said: "I do have concerns. I believe there are legitimate concerns about what took place during the election of 2020."

On May 16, 2022, NBC News published photos of Barnette marching toward the Capitol alongside members of the far-right extremist Proud Boys group who were later arrested and indicted for breaking into the building and attacking officers. Barnette’s campaign responded by saying Barnette "was in D.C. to support President Trump and demand election accountability."

Barnette, who ran for a U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania in 2020, has been put in an awkward position by Trump’s endorsement of Oz and his doubling-down by saying that she can’t win the general election. 

"I lost by 19 points, Donald Trump lost by more than 26 points," Barnette said May 16 in her final campaign appearance, comparing her 2020 performance in the district with Trump’s margin there, the New York Times reported. "Who’s less electable with those numbers?"

Contest could help decide Senate control

The Pennsylvania race is for the seat held by Republican Pat Toomey, who was first elected in 2010 and decided not to seek re-election. 

Besides Barnette and Oz, polls indicate the other major contender for the GOP nomination is former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick

The Nov. 8 general election race is rated as a toss-up and as "tilts Republican." The outcome could help determine which party controls the Senate, now split 50-50.

Our ruling

The Our American Century super PAC said Barnette "pretends she's America First, but repeatedly attacked President Trump."

Barnette attacked Trump during his run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but she became a supporter after he won the nomination. We did not find evidence she’s criticized him directly since, and she supported his re-election campaign in 2020.

We rate the statement Half True.

PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Our Sources

AdImpact.com, Our American Century "Never Trumper" ad, accessed May 16, 2022

YouTube, Our American Century "Never Trumper Kathy Barnette,"  May 13, 2022

Email, Kathy Barnette campaign, May 16, 2022

YouTube, Kathy Barnette "Happy New Year... Don't grow weary. FIGHT!," Dec. 31, 2020

Philadelphia Inquirer, "How Kathy Barnette’s election denial helped her become a GOP front-runner in the Pa. Senate race," updated May 12, 2022

Twitter, Dasha Burns tweet, May 16, 2022

YouTube, NBC10 Philadelphia "Kathy Barnette: Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate," April 27, 2022

Fox News, "Barnette responds to photos from Jan. 6 of her marching to Capitol on eve of PA primary," May 16, 2022

Axios, "Kathy Barnette reacts to ‘unfortunate’ Trump robocall," May 16, 2022

PoliticsPA.com, "Barnette, PA4 Nominee Who Organized Buses to DC for Jan. 6, Considers Senate Run," April 1, 2021

Federal Election Commission, Our American Century "24/48 HOUR REPORT OF INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES" report, April 21, 2022

Federal Election Commission, Our American Century "24/48 HOUR REPORT OF INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES" report, May 13, 2022

Federal Election Commission, Our American Century organization statement, Oct. 30, 2018, accessed May 16, 2022

Breitbart, "Kathy Barnette Attacked Trump in 2016 GOP Primary: ‘Horrid,’ ‘Very Little Substance,’ ‘Moral Character is Questionable,’" May 11, 2022 

Twitter, Kathy Barnette tweet, Sept. 26, 2015

Twitter, Kathy Barnette tweet, Sept. 26, 2015

Twitter, Kathy Barnette tweet, Sept. 26, 2015

Twitter, Kathy Barnette tweet, Sept. 26, 2015

"Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America," Kindle edition, pages 28, 33

BarnetteForSenate.com, "Off to Vote for Trump in 2016!" video, accessed May 16, 2022

New York Times, "Kathy Barnette lashes out at Trump: ‘Who’s less electable with those numbers?’", May 16, 2022

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Senate hopeful Kathy Barnette criticized Trump until he won 2016 nomination, then became a supporter

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