Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s surge in popularity has come with the price of increased scrutiny. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has found herself having to defend her record and comments about Planned Parenthood despite recent polls that rank her as No. 2 with 15 percent support among primary voters.
At the CNN debate Wednesday night, Fiorina calmly answered moderator Jake Tapper’s questions about her time leading HP. From 1999, when she was selected to be the first woman to run a Fortune 20 company, to her 2005 firing, Fiorina was a controversial figure. After overseeing the firm’s merger with Compaq, she ordered the layoffs of about 30,000 employees.
“Despite those difficult times, we doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its top-line growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation,” she said Wednesday. “I was a terrific CEO; the board was dysfunctional.”
Fiorina mentioned that the man who fired her -- Tom Perkins -- had taken out a newspaper advertisement to apologize, though the New York Times reported Sunday that the ad had been paid for by the Carly for America super PAC.
Also at the debate, Fiorina made waves with her graphic description of a Planned Parenthood video she indicated was evidence that the organization should be defunded. She said anyone who disagrees should watch the clip, which shows “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
But since then, several media outlets as well as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton have said that the video she referenced does not exist or was taken out of context. When confronted, Fiorina told Fox News Sunday that she didn’t accept those criticisms.
“I’ve seen the footage,” she said. “And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape. I haven’t found a lot of people in the mainstream media who have ever watched these things.”
Even feminist activist Gloria Steinem, whom Fiorina praised in June for challenging the status quo even if she didn’t agree with her, has called out the candidate. On Facebook Friday, Steinem wrote that “if you thought Republicans could find no woman more damaging to the diversity and needs of the female half of this country than Sarah Palin, take a good look at Carly Fiorina and what she stands for.”
Nonetheless, 52 percent of respondents to a CNN poll said they thought Fiorina was the winner of Wednesday's debate.