Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina set herself apart from the GOP’s two other outsider candidates Monday with her position on electing a Muslim president.
Appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Fiorina told host Jimmy Fallon that her opponent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, was “wrong” to suggest he would not support a Muslim presidential candidate.
“It says in our Constitution that religion cannot be a test for office,” said Fiorina, who – like Carson and real estate mogul Donald Trump – is Christian. Fiorina added that she believed people of faith made for better leaders, no matter what religion they practiced.
“I think faith gives us humility and empathy and optimism,” Fiorina said.
Her remarks stood in stark contrast to those made by Carson a day earlier on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” On Sunday, Carson told host Chuck Todd he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” He also said that Islam was incompatible with the Constitution.
But Carson wasn’t the only White House hopeful with harsh words for Muslims last week. GOP front-runner Donald Trump also drew widespread condemnation for failing to correct a town hall attendee who inaccurately labeled President Obama a Muslim and “not even an American” last Thursday. The questioner also said that Muslims were “a problem in this country” – another claim Trump did not dispute.
Despite that response, which was widely panned by Republican and Democratic rivals alike, Trump maintained his lead in a new national CNN/ORC poll. The survey, conducted in the three days after last week’s GOP debate on CNN, found Trump with 24% support – an eight-percentage-point decrease from earlier in the month. Fiorina, meanwhile, who has proved to be a formidable debater, surged to second place in the poll with 15% support – up from 3% in early September. Just behind her, at 14%, was Carson, whose support dropped from 19% in the previous poll.
Fallon told Fiorina Monday she “clearly” won the last debate “by far.” Asked what accounted for her cataclysmic rise in the polls, Fiorina said simply: “When people get to know me, they tend to support me.”
But while Fiorina delivered a strong performance at last week’s debate, it did not go over without criticism. During an aggressive takedown of Planned Parenthood, Fiorinia described video footage showing a live fetus being harvested for its organs. The women’s health organization, however, as well as several fact checkers, said no such video existed. When pressed to provide evidence for her claim, the Fiorina campaign delivered nothing of consequence.
Fiorina steered clear of any talk of Planned Parenthood Monday – Fallon didn’t ask about it, and she didn’t bring it up. She did, however, have strong words for Russian President Vladimir Putin (“I wouldn’t talk to him”); mixed words for the Pope (“I don’t agree with him on all of his politics for sure, but I certainly admire how he’s trying to break down the bureaucracy of the church”); and lyrics for her canine companions, Snickers and Max. Fiorina ended the interview Monday with a song she wrote for her grandchildren about her dogs.