During Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, candidate Carly Fiorina described watching a graphic video tied to the Planned Parenthood controversy: "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."
Fact checkers quickly pounced. The well-publicized videos secretly taken at Planned Parenthood by antiabortion activists did not show such a scene. Fiorina was instead describing a video containing spliced-together interviews and images.
This was not the first time that Fiorina has used fuzzy facts to emotionally connect with voters. She has a habit of occasionally exaggerating -- misrepresenting facts or conveniently changing details, especially when telling voters about her background.
Here are five examples from the campaign trail this year:
1. “My story, from secretary to CEO, is only possible in this nation, and proves that every one of us has potential."
This is how Fiorina introduced herself to voters during the debate on Wednesday night. It's how she always introduces herself, describing a rags-to-riches career that started at the receptionist desk at a "nine-person real estate firm" and led to the executive suite at one of the world's largest technology companies. But Fiorina leaves out some key details: Her secretarial job was a temporary one between dropping out of law school and moving to Italy with her first husband.
Fiorina graduated from Stanford University in 1976, having studied history and philosophy and focused her honors thesis on medieval justice systems. Given that she had been taking French lessons since age 4, Fiorina added Latin, German and Ancient Greek to her college studies. During the school year, she worked part-time at the front desk of a hair salon, and during the summers, she worked for a temp agency that often placed her in secretarial jobs.
“Because I had always assumed I’d go to graduate school, I thought of college as a time for pure learning,” Fiorina wrote in her 2006 autobiography, “Tough Choices." “My parents encouraged this approach, and so I had the wonderful experience of studying the subjects that truly interested me.”
After graduating, Fiorina enrolled at UCLA Law School, following in the footsteps of her father, a law professor who later became a judge. Fiorina was miserable and soon dropped out. As she tried to figure out her next move, Fiorina took a job at Marcus and Millichap, a commercial property brokerage firm in Palo Alto, just a block from Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina started at the front desk, but soon some of the brokers were asking her to “help them write up proposals, visit and assess property, make cold calls and participate in strategy sessions about upcoming negotiations,” she wrote in her 2006 book.
Within a year, she left that job to move with her first husband to Italy, where she worked as a private English tutor, learned how to cook, and studied for entrance exams to business school. Upon her return to the United States, she attended the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and was then hired for a sales job at Bell System, kicking off her climb up the corporate ladder.
2. “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. And he did — so I had to fall in love and marry him.”
This is how Fiorina described meeting her second husband, Frank Fiorina, during a town hall in New Hampshire over Labor Day weekend. But she was not in the secretarial pool; rather, they met early in Carly Fiorina's career when she worked in government communications at AT&T and he was even higher up the ladder. He showed interest in an idea that she had but couldn't get buy-in from higher-ups. He proposed in the car with his two daughters from a previous marriage sitting in the backseat, and the couple married in 1985. When Fiorina became CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 1999, her husband retired early from AT&T so he could better support her. The two are nearly always on the campaign trail together.
3. “When I was a little girl, my mother said to me one Sunday morning — she looked at me the way mothers sometimes look at their children — and she said: ‘What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.’”
This is one of Fiorina's favorite lines on the campaign trail, and she has repeatedly said that her mother's words of wisdom are at the core of why she’s a Republican and why she’s running for president.
But Fiorina cited a different source for the same message in her 2006 book: “One Sunday at church I received a small coaster that read ‘What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.’”
Epstein, Fiorina's spokeswoman, provided this explanation: "It was a small plaque. Her mother was her Sunday school teacher. So, it was at church and it was from her mother."
4. "I led Hewlett-Packard through a very difficult time, the worst technology recession in 25 years…. 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."
When Fiorina's record at Hewlett-Packard came up at the debate on Wednesday night, she had an answer ready. The topic frequently came up when Fiorina unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in California in 2010, and was the subject of fierce attacks by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). This year, the super PAC supporting her presidential bid has been circuiting brochures defending her five years leading the company, noting that its revenue in 2005 was higher than the budgets of the states that have governors or former governors now running for president.
But Fiorina's defense leaves out a number of key details. Much of the growth she cited is because of a controversial merger with Compaq, instantly increasing the company's number of employees and productivity. Fiorina also oversaw cutting 30,000 jobs and then, as the company's stock fell, was fired by the HP board and received a severance package worth more than $20 million. (Fiorina has said her tenure was rocky because she wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, something she said had to happen to save the company.)
5. "I'm going to tell you about a question that I was asked early on in my presidential race. I was asked on a national television program whether a woman's hormones prevented her from serving in the Oval Office. So, can we think of a single instance in which a man's judgment might have been clouded by his hormones? Any at all?"
This is a joke that Fiorina told at the Iowa State Fair last month. It's one of her favorites, and she has been telling it for months to the delight of crowds. But she was not asked the question in a serious sense -- it was a jocular exchange during an April interview on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends."
The show played comments making headlines at the time by a Texas marketing executive, who said only men should be president because they are less hormonal. Fiorina was brought on to comment. A female anchor kicked off the conversation by saying: "So, between just girls here, the hormones that we have make us not qualified to be president, according to this woman? What do you think?" Before a laughing Fiorina could answer, a male anchor cut in: "Out of control!"
"I think American history is littered with examples of men whose judgment was clouded by their hormones," Fiorina said, "including in the Oval Office."