In just 72 hours, as a new poll showed Carly Fiorina ranked as one of the top 10 Republican candidates in the 2016 field, she faced criticism from a slew of conservative blogs that attacked her for “praising Muslims” in a past speech and a business reporter declared her controversial business record as “not so sterling.”
Fiorina, the uncontested winner of the early debate in early August, is now facing the scrutiny familiar to front-runners.
If she maintains strong polling, she’ll graduate from the “b-team” debate slot and take the stage on September 16 during the main CNN/Reagan Library debate with the leading 10 Republican candidates. That means she’ll face tougher questions — and, of course, Donald Trump.
Conservative critics slammed Fiorina repeatedly this week for a 2001 speech in which the then-Hewlett Packard CEO spoke compassionately about her fears for her Muslim employees two weeks after September 11, when hate crimes against those of Middle Eastern descent soared.
“Her claims evidence her exceptional ineptitude or blatant, galling, willful deceit,” Christian Headlines’ Bethany Blankely wrote of Fiorina’s praise of Muslim innovators and their ancient societies.
The speech from 14 years ago was written about in blogs several times earlier this summer but, as Fiorina’s standing has risen in post-debate polls, scrutiny and criticism have amplified. Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann threw fuel onto the fire by tweeting a link to such a post on Sunday.
In The New York Times, Aaron Ross Sorkin penned a scathing critique of her business record, arguing that her controversial time as a corporate executive deserves more attention in the campaign.
“The party never happened,” he wrote of the merger she championed between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, “but the hangover was brutal. Hewlett-Packard is still recovering from the ill-conceived merger nearly 15 years later, and recently decided to split the company up. There were some 30,000 layoffs. Its stock price plunged and badly lagged its competition.”
The next debate will take place in California, a state where Fiorina lived for more than a decade and ran a failed bid for the Senate — a fact that’s sure to come up. Whether Fiorina can command the spotlight — or pales in comparison to Trump’s antics – will set the tone for the rest of her campaign.