Clinton was in Derry, New Hampshire, to announce plans to “modernize” the Department of Veterans Affairs when a man who claimed to have been laid off by Fiorina while she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard addressed her.
“She says she’s a great CEO,” he said. “Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her.”
Clinton burst into laughter. So did some members of the audience.
“I know that doesn’t sound very nice,” the man added while Clinton continued to smile and laugh.
She pulled herself together and told him, “I wouldn’t mess with you!”
Then she laughed some more.
A spokeswoman for Fiorina did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Clinton’s campaign chose not to comment. Clinton and Fiorina, a Republican, are the only women seeking the White House in 2016.
Both candidates use their gender to their advantage, but it’s Clinton, a proud feminist, who has employed her allies to go after her only viable opponent for alleged sexism over the most innocuous of statements.
After Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver was quoted joking that he’d be willing to consider Clinton for vice president, Clinton surrogates pounced and called for his firing.
Christine Quinn, a member of Clinton’s New York Leadership Council and fundraiser for her campaign, called the joke “dangerous rhetoric which perpetuates sexist and misogynistic stereotypes” and cautioned that “if Bernie Sanders does not want to be seen as someone who uses sexist language and perpetuates a dangerous sexist stereotype of strong women, then he should tell his people to stop. And if they don’t stop, he should fire them.”
When Sanders said, during the Democratic debate, that “shouting” about guns will not solve gun violence, Clinton responded by insinuating that Sanders had been making a direct, sexist attack on her.
“I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting,” she told the audience at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines in October. Sanders, by the way, identifies as a feminist.
It would be a stretch to interpret Clinton laughing at a joke about strangling a woman as some sort of tacit endorsement of domestic violence, though had the joke been about her, Clinton and her allies would no doubt attempt it.