Meet The Real Carly Fiorina

Dave Johnson

There used to be something called “the HP Way.” This was the description of the way Hewlett-Packard (HP) conducted its business and treated its employees and customers.

Management was informal, and the majority of the company’s engineers worked in an open environment, rather than offices, to encourage communication and teamwork. In Bill Hewlett’s word, “the HPa Way is a core ideology … which includes a deep respect for the individual, a dedication to affordable quality and reliability, a commitment to community responsibility, and a view that the company exists to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.”

In a 2010 Reuters’ article, “Fiorina, Hurd: no practitioners of ‘The HP Way’?” Alex Dobuzinskis wrote,

The HP Way” had its heyday in the 1960s, and today is credited with helping grow the corporation from a $538 garage outfit in 1939 into the $125 billion behemoth it is today.

There was an emphasis on life outside of work: HP bought up land for recreational activities around the world, and pioneered Friday afternoon beers at the office, for instance.

Experts like Malone say that approach became a model adopted by many in Silicon Valley –including crosstown peers like Apple Inc and Cisco – and helped differentiate the technology giants on the U.S. West Coast from their more strait-laced brethren back east.

That was the old way that HP did business.

Then Came Carly

Then came Carly Fiorina and the new American business model. Fiorina was appointed CEO of HP in 1999 and began to rid the company of its old-fashioned way of doing business – and employees. In 2002 she pushed through a merger with Compaq over the objection of 49 percent of the company’s shareholders (along with the vocal objections of Walter Hewlett, son of one of HP’s founders. See definition: “divisive“.) The goal of the merger was to grow the company, to reduce costs by shedding a huge number of duplicated employees – and to become big enough in the computer industry to make Microsoft reduce its licensing fees for their operating system. But profits and HP’s stock price sank.

In a 2004 analysis, “Losing the HP way,” the Economist reported, “Ms. Fiorina reacted by giving another glimpse of her tough side, firing three top executives on the spot, and stubbornly sticking with her strategy.”

By the end of her term at HP, Fiorina had laid off up to 30,000 people. In the five months after she left in 2005 HP had to lay off another 15,000. In “Why I Still Think Fiorina Was a Terrible CEO,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld (Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management at Yale School of Management) writes at Politico:

“In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. … During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched.

… And I have to point out the obvious: If the board was wrong, the employees wrong, and the shareholders wrong—as Fiorina maintains—why in 10 years has she never been offered another public company to run?”

Bill Taylor, writing at the Harvard Business Review, in “How Hewlett-Packard Lost the HP Way” quotes Thomas Perkins, “the legendary venture capitalist and a former HP director (who has hardly covered himself in glory during this mess), who told the New York Times back in August: ‘I didn’t know there was such a thing as corporate suicide, but now we know that there is. It’s just astonishing.’ ” Perkins was talking about circumstances under a different CEO, but those circumstances commenced under Fiorina’s leadership at the company.

“Corporate suicide.” Perkins may not have understood this at the time, but he was also talking about how the new American business model and adherents like Fiorina have divided and destroyed our country.

Republican Corporate Establishment Pushing Fiorina Over Trump

The HP Board felt that Fiorina would come in, cast aside the old-fashioned “HP Way” and transform HP into a modern, streamlined, neoliberal money-making machine.

Skip ahead a few years and the Republican establishment appears to have decided that Carly Fiorina, disgraced HP CEO, “debate winner,” maker-up of stuff, will save them from Donald Trump. So the corporate media outlets are pushing Fiorina hard. Blogger Atrios, in “I Guess Jeff Sent A Memo” (referring to Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos), included this picture of a list of Washington Post columns, which is representative of what is going on across the media right now:

Defining Moments In Republican Debate

There were two defining moments for Fiorina in the second Republican debate. One was when she responded to Trump’s insult about her looks, saying, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Fiorina played the victim card well. Republicans love being victims.

But in the 2010 California Senate race in which Fiorina ran against incumbent Barbara Boxer, Fiorina did to Boxer exactly what Trump did this year. Talking Points Memo has that story, in “That Time Carly Fiorina Got Caught Dissing Her Opponent’s Hair On Camera“:

In 2010, Fiorina was caught on an open mic commenting on Boxer’s hair as she was prepping for an interview with CNN affiliate KXTV. Fiorina told her staff that someone saw Boxer on television and “said what everyone says, ‘God what is that hair?’ So yesterday!”

Fiorina lost that campaign for U.S. Senate – her first and only previous attempt to gain political office and experience inside government. Starting at the top: First a run for the Senate and then, losing that, a run for the presidency.

Fiorina’s other defining moment in the debate was her emphatic description of the contents of a video supposedly catching Planned Parenthood selling baby parts for profit. She asked debate viewers to watch the videos and, “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.”

But this does not appear in the videos. Among several sources making that clear was Sarah Kliff at Vox, in a post headlined, “Carly Fiorina is wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. I know because I watched them.

Fiorina is wrong: Nobody watching the Planned Parenthood tapes would see those things. I know, because I recently watched the 12 hours of video that included all footage shot inside clinics.

The videos were produced by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that argues Planned Parenthood has profited from procuring fetal tissue for researchers. The videos do show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue, sometimes in ways that are callous and jarring. But there is no moment where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit, nor is there the scene that Fiorina describes.

… Either Fiorina hasn’t watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage. Because what she says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist.

This was entirely a fabrication on Fiorina’s part. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo writes of this:

Fiorina has a habit of simply making things up. In the case of the parts of the Planned Parenthood videos, the way she made it up seems to verge on the pathological. Again she says she saw something in these videos that completely wasn’t there. And she doubled down on it the next day. This is just lying through your teeth or just being so indifferent to whether things are true or not that it amounts to the same thing.

… [J]ournalists have special responsibilities to look past caricatures and the familiar. In this case, they’re failing that test. You should not be able to tell a slew of small fibs in a big debate and one mammoth one and not have it become part of the campaign discussion at all.

Note that the videos themselves are almost entirely a manipulated fabrication as well. (Remember the doctored “you didn’t build that” video?) Republicans being who they are, Fiorina’s surge with the Republican base comes from a story that was made up from whole cloth. But that’s what the Republican base is – a cult immersed in fantasies created by propagandists hired by billionaires to push myths that end up with the enrichment of the billionaires after the elections that the lies and myths manipulate.

“Democrat Party”

Fiornia’s campaign created this online ad in response to Trump’s insult:

Brilliant marketing. But in the ad Fiorina refers to the “Democrat” party. As silly as this insult is, it is also significant and revealing. This phrase in the ad is a “dog whistle” to the far right. “Democrat Party” is an old Joe McCarthy/John Birch Society insult, used by the far, far right to identify themselves as part of their cult. Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in 2006 in the New Yorker about this word use, in “The ‘Ic’ Factor“:

There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. “Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.”

… In the conservative media, the phenomenon feeds more voraciously the closer you get to the mucky, sludgy bottom. “Democrat Party” is standard jargon on right-wing talk radio and common on winger Web sites like, which blue-pencils Associated Press dispatches to de-“ic” references to the Party of F.D.R. and J.F.K.

… This is partly the work of Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz, the Johnny Appleseed of such linguistic innovations as “death tax” for estate tax and “personal accounts” for Social Security privatization. Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of “Democrat” with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the—how you say?—Democratic Party. “Those two letters actually do matter,” Luntz said the other day.

So this is an introduction to Carly Fiorina. New top-down “business models” that shed people and humanity, and divided and destroyed a time-honored company. Playing the victim for things she herself has done to others. Sneaky “dog whistles” to the anti-woman far right in a video that pretends to advance the cause of women.

Will the country go the way of HP if Fiorina and her backers succeed in winning the nomination and presidency? One former HP worker told me, “The one area that Carly succeeded in was this: destroying jobs at HP and creating tens of thousands of victims with lots of ill-will toward HP. Carly was a great job-destroyer. Why not send her to Washington to see what she can do for America?”

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