Carly Fiorina’s Sleazy, Revealing Lie About Her Dead “Daughter”

ted-rall-aaron-la-timesCarly_Fiorina_in_Sao_Paulo,_Brazil_-_2004Skewed NewsDavid 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.

CNN called it “true but…misleading.” Vox said it was “pure fiction…there is no video of the images.” Salon’s editor said Fiorina was “either a liar, or she’s delusional.”

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?

For Skewed News, I’m Ted Rall.


  1. This is so incredibly crushing to every stepparent who has loved a child as their own. My husband Robert has helped me raise my daughter since she was five. He has been there for every milestone and every day-in and day-out of making lunches and fighting the carpool lane and doing laundry and coaching baseball. I can’t believe you think Carly needs to qualify her statement with the adjective “stepdaughter.” Are you a parent, Ted? If you are then you know that the loss of a child at 30 leaves the same size hole as if the child were three or 13. Lori is gone forever. Literally, she was buried. Her body, in the ground, never coming back. Carly and her husband live with this loss every single day in all the things they will never get to share with their daughter. Why do you insist she diminish the loss or her place in her life?? It’s a horrifying experience to survive your children. I thought it was so brave of her to admit her daughter died of drugs. Families are full of drama, trauma and tragedies. I’m so glad she didn’t push a laminate of her life on us.

  2. you don’t mention her HP sales to Iran against santions through a European subsidiary. $120,000,000.00!

  3. evil corporate scum? You disgust me. You are. Pig for saying those things. A deplorable human being

  4. If you think the fact that she was “just” a step-parent or that this daughter was not her biological daughter, or the fact that the daughter entered her life at 6 and left it at 35, makes it any less traumatic, any less honest of a grieving parent, you sir, are a fool. Your column is insulting. No, I am NOT a step-parent. I am a parent who gets that step-parents love the children of their spouses too.Too bad you don’t get that.

  5. Until you walk in her shoes you cannot judge. I refer to my steps as my children as they are my family. If one of them dies at any age from a devastating overdose I would overwhelmingly feel that drug used affected my life in a tragic painful way. Stop the judgment and hear Her message. Not everything is manipulation. Very irritated at your pompous judgement. She was a class act amongst ignorant asses

  6. At 66, I have known one parent who lost a child that used this tragedy to garner attention. Ever. Most parents/step-parents harbor and protect this terrible knowledge, they don’t trot it out as an aside to garner attention — I wonder how Carly’s husband felt about this flagrant grab? Of course, he knows her already, so he knew she was a snake when he picked her up. I found this “gotcha” moment disrespectful and particularly disgusting since she was using this to falsely point to marijuana as a gateway drug when it’s already been dis-proven, and in her case, wasn’t even on the radar, that 35 year old died from alcohol addiction & prescription drugs. As far as the PP video, I simply roll my eyes. Except for the one woman I know, it would almost always take a woman who’d never had children to think that this would be an appropriate share during political debates.

  7. BS Ted. Do you have children? Mine are 33 and 36. They will always be “my children.” If a child dies through miscarriage, as a toddler, teen or adult, the heartbreak and emptiness and loss are the same. Living with the death become manageable but the pain never goes away.

    As for Carly, if she raised her stepdaughter from the age of 6, no doubt she was thought of as the mother by her stepdaughter. Just because the stepdaughter got into drug abuse doesn’t change that; it just makes it a messy relationship. Addiction is a killer of relationships, jobs, potential and people.

    You something to nit pick, Ted? You want to make Carly look bad so Hillary might look better? Puhlease! There are enough serious questions about candidates and the current president’s administration to keep you busy.

  8. That’s the best you could come with? Are you saying that a “step-daughter” couldn’t be considered as someone’s child? What a disgusting article! BTW, she didn’t say MY CHILD. You, Ted Rall, should be ashamed! Really ashamed!

  9. As a liberal but also an Iowan where the Republicans cross the state continually, I often read right of center stories that have headlines like this. I was sadly disappointed that the author thought a “daughter” in Carly Fiorina’s life at the child’s age of 6 could not possibly be her daughter. My “daughter” has been in my life since she was 8 with me being the only father who was ever in her same household. It is now 20 years later and my “little girl” has given my wife and I a grandson. I am the only one my grandson calls “Papa”. He has other grandfathers but I am Papa. To say another cannot feel the way they feel in such relationships is the height of arrogance and quite frankly, ignorance. Enough said.

  10. Linda Rasmussen says:

    At the ORIGINAL live airing of the CNN debate, Fiorina specifically called her stepdaughter, a SON. She didn’t even have the gender correct. If watching the rerun, she says daughter, it’s been dubbed over. She was milking this for all it was worth, just like stating she witnessed a video of the dissection of a child who was kept alive for it’s brain…also fake. Link: She was prepared to tell at least 2 whoppers so she could get voters to feel sorry for her… and I don’t know about those people, but if someone plays me for a sucker, I don’t even give them the time of day. She’s OUT!

  11. I disagree that she was misleading. I’m a step father to a 14 yr old daughter who has been in my life since the age of 6. I would NEVER call her my step child (my wife and I have a child together now). I love her like I love my son. There is no distinction between my love for them because one is legally mine and the other is not. If you were the parent of a step child you would understand her comments were not misleading. And just because a child is above the age 18 doesn’t stop them from being your child. That’s a title they will hold forever.

  12. Ted, about your question about how Fiorina’s lying will play into her foreign policy agenda, ask Hillary.

  13. Great article and on time. Voters should know the whole truth. I also just found out her biggest donor is Univision. No wonder she’s Pro-Amnesty! 1.6 million!

  14. Really? Seriously* This article is sad. My “Father” (step-father) came into my life when I was four years old. I am now fifty. I knew no difference growing up as he cared for me and loved me deeply! I would be extremely hurt and disappointed if he referred to me as “step-daughter”while speaking about me! I AM his daughter.You shouldn’t speak on something so sensitive in such a way!

  15. You are a pig, Tim. Scum of the earth. Why do you Liberal scum have such hateful hearts?

  16. William Robison says:

    When my father died my eldest brother (technically half brother) told me, referring to my father, “he was the only father I ever new.” In any way that really counts my brothers are my brothers, and my father is our father.

    That she didn’t indicate that she had not given birth to am woman she considered her daughter is irrelevant.

    I am as anti Fiorina as they come, and her incompetency as CEO of HP is a really issue the disqualifies her to be President of the United States.

    Don’t get distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter when there is so much really stuff that is relevant to running the world’s largest economy she is just plain wrong on.

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