Carly Fiorina’s graphic description of a scene from the heavily-edited Planned Parenthood “sting videos” that no one can prove exists was just the tip of the iceberg.
In the weeks since Fiorina’s standout moment at the Sept. 16 Republican presidential primary debate, news outlets have pointed to a slew of statements from the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and her campaign staff about everything from her personal life and business record to policy positions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
TPM asked the Fiorina campaign on Tuesday to comment on five recent incidents where the candidate or her staff have begun to show a pattern of fudging the facts. Spokeswoman Anna Epstein obliged but challenged the merits of TPM’s request.
“Considering how far you’ve had to bend over backwards to try to construe these statements in a way that fits your left-wing narrative, I’d say that sort of contortionism speaks for itself,” she wrote in an email.
And just as Fiorina has since doubled-, tripled- and quadrupled-down on her description of the grisly alleged Planned Parenthood “sting” video scene, her spokeswoman dismissed challenges to Fiorina and her staff’s assertions point-by-point.
On whether the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision is “the law of the land”
Fiorina denied Friday that she’d ever called the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, the “law of the land.”
She was asked about the comment in an interview with conservative Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson, which was flagged by Right Wing Watch. Mickelson pointed out that referring to Supreme Court decisions as the “law of the land” rankles residents of the Hawkeye State in particular.
“I actually—with all due respect Jan—I think that is a quote from someone else, not from me,” Fiorina responded. “I know there are many Republican candidates, [John] Kasich among them, who have said those exact words.”
But the former Hewlett-Packard CEO did refer to the impending decision in the case as the “law of the land” in an interview earlier this year with Caffeinated Thoughts, an Iowa conservative blog.
“The Supreme Court ruling will become the law of the land,” Fiorina said in the interview. “However much I may agree or disagree with it, I wouldn’t support an amendment to reverse it.”
On Tuesday, in response to TPM, a Fiorina spokeswoman pointed out that the candidate made that comment before the court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“It’s hard to understand how she could say an opinion was anything since it didn’t exist,” Fiorina spokeswoman Anna Epstein wrote in an email to TPM.
On how she met her husband, Frank Fiorina
The Washington Post took out its B.S. detector for an anecdote Fiorina shared on the campaign trail about meeting her second husband, Frank.
“It was a long time ago in the technology world and there weren’t that many people actually who took a young woman from the secretarial pool all that seriously,” she said at a town hall event over Labor Day Weekend in New Hampshire, as quoted by The Washington Post. “And he did — so I had to fall in love and marry him.”
The newspaper noted that the candidate met Frank Fiorina, then an AT&T executive, while she was working in government communications for the company. She worked as a secretary earlier in her life, between leaving law school and relocating to Italy with her first husband, according to the Post.
TPM asked Epstein whether Fiorina may have simply misspoken or condensed the story at the town hall event. Epstein responded by questioning the accuracy of the quote.
“She didn’t say she met her husband while working in the secretarial pool,” Epstein wrote in an email. “She said he was taking someone seriously who came from the secretarial pool.”
On whether the media vetted that Obama actually was a community organizer
Fiorina on Friday slammed a separate fact-check by The Washington Post, in which Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave her well-worn “secretary to CEO” line “three Pinocchios.” Fiorina accused the media of neglecting to verify President Barack Obama’s background as a community organizer.
“Remember Barack Obama? There was no examination of his resume at all,” she told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview flagged by BuzzFeed News. “Nobody actually checked whether he was a community organizer or not or how long he sat in the pew of that church. But suddenly I’m not a secretary.”
But Obama’s work in community organizing and his longtime association with the Members of Trinity United Church of Christ, led by the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, were dissected in the press during the 2008 election.
Asked to respond, Epstein, the Fiorina spokeswoman, wrote in an email to TPM: “The Washington Post, to my knowledge, did no such fact check concluding that President Obama wasn’t a ‘real’ community organizer because he later went to law school.”
On whether a top Fiorina staffer smeared a Yale dean critical of her business record
A top Fiorina staffer last week launched a personal attack against Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a dean at the Yale School of Management who has long criticized the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s business record. The attack didn’t hold up to scrutiny, according to The New York Times.
After Sonnenfeld wrote a piece for Politico Magazine titled “Why I Still Think Fiorina Was a Terrible C.E.O.,” Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager attacked the Yale dean in an email to reporters.
“I’ll give Sonnenfeld this: He would know something about getting fired,” Sarah Isgur Flores wrote, as quoted by the Times. “Of course, his was for vandalism of school property while he was at Emory.”
Yet the newspaper reported that Sonnenfeld denied the 1997 vandalism charges and ultimately won settlements from Emory, where he had been forced to resign his position as a professor, and from Georgia Tech, which rescinded a job offer extended to him after Emory accused him of vandalizing school property. Sonnenfeld suggested at the time that the vandalism allegations were Emory’s retribution against him for taking the job offer, according to the Times.
Emory then withdrew the allegations in 2000, according to the Times. But Epstein doubled down on the Sonnenfeld attack in the email to TPM.
“From accounts at the time and from Sonnenfeld himself, he was fired for vandalism,” she wrote. “It appears he then sued the school and they withdrew the allegation as part of the settlement. That doesn’t change why he was fired.”
On whether Fiorina was “cleared” in HP’s dealings with Iran
Fiorina said in a recent interview on “Fox News Sunday” that a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation proved she had no knowledge that Hewlett-Packard printers were sold to Iran via a third party during her tenure at the company.
When host Chris Wallace asked her to affirm that she didn’t know about the prohibited business practice, Fiorina responded: “In fact, the SEC investigation proved that neither I nor anyone else in management knew about it.” She added that the company didn’t discover the practice until three years after she left.
The Huffington Post looked into that answer and found that while it’s true there’s no evidence Fiorina was aware of the practice when she was at HP, there’s also no evidence of an SEC investigation exonerating her in that regard. The SEC instead sent two letters to HP on the subject in 2009, which an agency spokesman described to The Huffington Post as a routine inquiry.
Epstein didn’t directly address that discrepancy in the email to TPM.
“This all happened years after Carly left,” she wrote. “From what we understand, the SEC sent a letter of inquiry. Upon receiving HP’s response, the SEC felt that they had sufficient information and closed the inquiry.”