Carly Fiorina got rave reviews following the second Republican presidential debate – many for her deft response to a criticism of her looks from frontrunner Donald Trump.
But Fiorina also drew heavy criticism about the challenge she issued concerning a video critical of Planned Parenthood she said she had watched – that turned out to be a lie. More about that shortly.
Fiorina’s putdown of Trump had been triggered by a story in Rolling Stone magazine with a quote from the unfiltered mogul.
“Look at that face!” Trump was quoted as saying while Fiorina was on television. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
Days before the Sept. 16 CNN debate, Fiorina had already turned Trump’s comment back on him, as a criticism of women in general.
She put out a TV ad entitled “Look at This Face.” It showed pictures of several individual women, and her at an event for Republican women:
“Ladies, look at this face and look at all of your faces: the face of leadership,” Fiorina says in the ad. “This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.”
In the CNN debate, moderator Jake Tapper first asked Trump about Jeb Bush’s comment about Congress trying to cut $500 million in funding for Planned Parenthood.
“The quote was, ‘I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.’ “ Tapper said. “He said he misspoke. You said that that’s going to haunt him. Why do you think that?”
Because “it’s terrible,” Trump responded, dismissing Bush’s claim he “misspoke.”
“There was no question because I heard when he said the statement,” Trump said.
Shortly later, Tapper read back Trump’s remark about her looks. “Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance,” Tapper continued. “Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.”
When the laughter subsided, Fiorina responded.
“Yo u know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said,” Fiorina said. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said pointedly, bringing huge applause.
Trump looked wounded. “I think she’s got a beautiful face,” he said defensively, “and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”
Although a successful takedown of Trump got huge attention, Fiorina’s charge about Planned Parenthood may be longerlasting – both positively and negatively.
“As regards Planned Parenthood,” Fiorina declared, her voice rising, “anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch 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.”
Although her statement wasn’t challenged during the debate, there was huge criticism immediately after, from many sources, lasting for days.
“This is completely and totally untrue,” said Eric Ferrero, Vice-President of Communications for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the next morning. “Every part of what she said is flat-out false.
“She’s talking about videos that have been released by anti-abortion extremists and have been so heavily edited that experts say they distort the truth and are not reliable.
“But even on the heavily edited and discredited videos, what Carly Fiorina claims exists actually doesn’t. We think she’s referring to a video where a woman who never worked for Planned Parenthood makes totally unsubstantiated claims about what she saw at health centers,” Ferrero said.
“As she talks, a photograph of a fetus appears on the screen. Days after the video was released, the anti-abortion extremists behind this smear campaign admitted that the photo was actually the stillborn baby of a woman in Pennsylvania who had a miscarriage. They used it without her knowledge or permission. . . .
“At another point while the same woman is talking, images of another fetus appear that are credited as archival footage from an anti-abortion group; no circumstances about those images are known, but it is clearly not related to a Planned Parenthood health center or to the speaker on the video.
“The images show nothing like what Carly Fiorina said they do, and they have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood,” Ferrero said. “The video footage that she claims exists – and that she ‘dared’ people to watch — does not exist.”
Politifact, a respected fact-checker on political statements, said Fiorina’s description of the video was “Mostly False.”
Another Planned Parenthood vice-president, Dawn Laguens, told MSNBC that Fiorina’s “ ‘Liar, liar, dress on fire’ moment is an example of just how far these GOPers will go.”
Fiorina’s lie, and what it says about her, may not dog her as long as Hillary Clinton’s private email server problem. But it could.
DAVE MCNEELY is a political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@ gmail or (512)458 2963.