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Carly Fiorina: I owe Hillary 'a debt of gratitude,' but she's 'lied'

Fiorina said that she and other female candidates for office owe Clinton a "debt of gratitude" for legitimizing their candidacies.
Carly Fiorina, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens to a question during an interview after speaking to attendees at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Ia., Aug. 17, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
Carly Fiorina, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens to a question during an interview after speaking to attendees at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Ia., Aug. 17, 2015. 

Carly Fiorina said in an interview Saturday that she and other female candidates for office owe Hillary Clinton a "debt of gratitude" for legitimizing their candidacies, and "in many ways" still admires the former Secretary of State.

"She was the first serious woman candidate for president. We do owe her a debt of gratitude," Fiorina told NBC's Chuck Todd, acknowledging when asked whether she'd be taken seriously as a candidate without Clinton's 2008 presidential run, "perhaps not."

The former HP CEO has fashioned herself one of Clinton's most aggressive antagonists in the Republican presidential field, but she once said she had "great admiration and empathy" for the Democratic presidential frontrunner — and she said in the interview she still feels that way.

"In many ways I do [have great admiration and respect for Clinton]. She's a hardworking woman. She's an intelligent woman. She has dedicated herself to public service," Fiorina said.

But Fiorina was quick to make clear that she doesn't believe Clinton is suited for the White House, asserting she "lied about some key things."

"It is also true, however, that she is not trustworthy, that she has lied about some key things. Benghazi, her emails, her server. And she doesn't have a track record," Fiorina said, adding that she "absolutely" believes Clinton purposely lied about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

In contrast, Fiorina sought to frame her own record as CEO of a major technology company as a significant asset if elected president.

That record, however, is spotty, as Fiorina led the company when the tech boom crashed, laid off thousands of workers and was ultimately ousted by HP's board of directors. But she defended her business experience, telling Todd that the company was "vastly more pofitable when I left it than when I found it" and pledging, "I will run on that track record all day long."

She acknowledged, however, that you can't "precisely" run government like a business, "because we have three co-equal branches of government," but said that in government, as with any organization, "you need to know where your money's being spent."

And Fiorina promised to bring at least one management strategy from her days at HP to the White House: Interviewing a minority and female candidate for every position she fills.

"Because that's how you get a meritocracy," Fiorina said. "When you build an environment in which merit is rewarded, then it's not about seniority, like it is in the federal government."

Fiorina also weighed in on a number of domestic issues, including the economy and immigration reform.

She dismissed the debate over birthright citizenship as a "bright, shiny object" used by politicians to distract voters from truly attainable reforms, which she evaluated as securing the border and fixing the legal immigration system. She also said it would be impossible to deal with the millions of immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally before tackling those two issues.

"We have to fix the first two things first, for many reasons. A, because they're festering problems, and B, as long as we don't fix them, people lack faith in their government," she said.

But for those here illegally, Fiorina said she wouldn't offer citizenship, declaring that "there must be a consequence" to breaking the laws.

"My own view is, if you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, you do not have an opportunity to earn a pathway to citizenship. To legal status, perhaps," she said.

And on the economy, Fiorina said that 2 percent growth in the economy "underperforming," and suggested that coupled with the recent slowdown in the Chinese economy and the decline in small businesses all contributed to the recent 500-plus point drop in the stock market on Friday.

"Well, frankly, I think it was inevitable. I was expecting this a bit sooner," she said.

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