Carly Fiorina Keeps Digging a Hole She Never Should Have Started

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Over at Vox, Sarah Kliff asks the Fiorina campaign to back up Carly’s claim that the Planned Parenthood sting videos show “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.” On the first try, they emailed her a YouTube video that doesn’t show any legs kicking and isn’t one of the sting videos anyway. So Kliff asked again. On the second try, they did send her one of the sting videos, but it also doesn’t show any legs kicking or hearts beating. There’s a former organ harvester on the video who claims to have seen this, but no actual footage to prove it. As Kliff says, “there’s no moment to ‘watch,’ as Fiorina urged debate viewers.”

But here’s an interesting thing. A long time ago I posted my personal guideline for gauging how misleading a statement is. I can’t dig it up at the moment, but it was basically this: How easy is to fix the offending statement? And how badly does this change its meaning? If it’s easy and doesn’t change much, then it’s not really all that misleading.

So let’s try that with Carly. Here it is, with my additions in italics: “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a former organ harvester describe 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.”

I hate to say it, but that’s a pretty easy change, and it doesn’t change the impact of her statement very much. This kinda kills me, but I have to conclude that although Fiorina’s statement is clearly wrong, it’s only mildly misleading. She should have just gone with the more accurate version in the first place. She wouldn’t be in hot water now, and it wouldn’t have weakened her debate statement by more than a smidgen. Unfortunately, not only did she not do this, but she doubled down the next day by assuring George Stephanopoulos that she had seen the “images” she talked about.

Bad move, Carly. You just made a bad situation worse even though there was no need to do it. But I guess that’s no surprise. I gather this is one of your signature MOs.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate