Skewed News — David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and Ur of conventional wisdom in corporate media, says Carly Fiorina came out of Wednesday’s gruelingly long Republican presidential debate as “the most impressive candidate,” though “her spotty record at Hewlett-Packard” makes her a better prospect for vice president.
The standout moment in Fiorina’s performance was the revelation that she’d “buried a child due to drug addiction.”
This is how she put it:
“I very much hope that I am the only person on this stage who can say this. I know there are millions of Americans out there who will say the same thing: My husband, Frank, and I buried a child to drug addiction.”
It was a “whoa” moment in an otherwise dreary exercise of “Governor Kasich, Senator Paul questions your commitment to net neutrality. What do you want to tell him?” Fiorina was personal. Straight. Human. (That last adjective being much needed in light of her sang froid takeaway salary post-HP layoff queen.)
It was also misleading.
The child in question was Lori Ann Fiorina — Carly’s stepdaughter. Lori Ann, who suffered a fatal overdose in 2009. She was 35.
I don’t doubt that Carly loved Lori Ann, or that she considered her, in her heart, as her own daughter. Lori Ann, Carly’s husband Frank’s daughter from his first marriage, was 6 when Carly met her. Carly has no biological children of her own.
But this is presidential politics. Voters have a right to the whole story, not the Twitter version. By saying she’d “buried a child” as a result of illegal drugs, the picture that popped into the millions of brains watching Wednesday night was of her child — not a stepchild — under 18, the age of, you know, a child.
Fiorina may be evil corporate scum, but she’s not stupid. She knew what she was doing when she scripted that line, which clearly read like one of the many debate candidates practice in advance (“there you go again”): artfully threading the needle in order to politicize her grief for maximum effect.
It was also a misleading segue. The “buried a child” line followed a brief discussion about the perils of marijuana as a gateway drug. But Lori Ann Fiorina died from alcoholism and abuse of prescription drugs, not pot.
In court, witnesses are asked to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why didn’t Fiorina tell the whole truth? Because it wouldn’t have made for nearly as compelling a line for an electorate unlikely to investigate the truth for themselves:
“I buried my stepchild, my husband Frank’s daughter, to drug addiction, when she was in her thirties.”
If this were the fact-checking website Politifact, I’m sure they’d subtract some truth points for conflating a daughter with a stepdaughter. They’re not the same, any more than a brother is the same as a brother-in-law, even if you love him like a brother.
The age thing gets more of a pass. I’m my mother’s child even now, at age 52. Especially when she sends me a check. Coupled with the daughter/stepdaughter fudge, however, I can’t help thinking we’re looking at someone who doesn’t have a close relationship with playing things straight.
During the same debate, Fiorina described watching an anti-abortion group’s video of “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.” No matter where you stand on reproductive rights, that’s a disgusting image.
It’s also not true.
If Fiorina lies about deeply personal topics like her stepdaughter’s tragic death and abortion, how will lying play into the execution of her disturbingly forthright foreign policy agenda of refusing to engage in diplomacy with Russia and sending more arms to the Middle East?