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Man At Clinton Town Hall Says He Wants To 'Strangle' Fiorina

Hillary Clinton during a campaign stop in Derry, N.H. She was there to talk about veterans issues, but a man who said he wanted to "strangle" Republican Carly Fiorina is getting all the attention.
Jim Cole

This story was updated at 10:00 p.m. ET

Listening to a man say he wanted to "strangle" Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina at a New Hampshire campaign event Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laughed, made a joke — and did not say anything to distance herself from the statement.

That has drawn the outrage of conservatives, who accused her, Democrats and the media of a double standard, especially because Republicans have been criticized for not distancing themselves from questioners who make incendiary remarks.

Donald Trump, for example, at an event earlier this year, failed to correct or admonish a questioner who said, "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," adding, "We know our current president is one."

Because of the comment at the Clinton event, and Clinton's lack of an admonishment, the Republican National Committee went so far as to charge that Clinton and Democrats had "lost all credibility claiming to be a party that stands up for women."

Fiorina's deputy campaign manager wondered how "media lapdogs" would explain it away.

The Exchange

You can watch part of the exchange at the Derry, N.H., event here:

It came at an event focused on veterans. The questioner said he worked at Hewlett-Packard, where Fiorina oversaw tens of thousands of layoffs when she was CEO.

"Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her," said Fred Walsh, as the rest of the crowd laughed.

Clinton stood smiling, laughed and looked down.

"I know that doesn't sound very nice," he said, before Clinton cut in.

"I wouldn't mess with you," Clinton responded, laughing, before changing the topic and talking about Social Security.

The Fuller Context

Backing up a bit, Walsh told NPR's Tamara Keith he is a campaign volunteer. He first told Clinton he had received thousands of dollars in job performance bonuses at HP, but then, "I get called in with a bunch of other engineers. My division's making money — I get laid off."

He added, "She told us it was for cost-cutting. A couple months after we get laid off — 20,000 people — she bought jets for flying executives around the country."

"I saw friends of mine that had over 20 years ... in Hewlett-Packard lose their homes, their marriages broke up because of the stress."

And then: "And she says she's a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV I want to reach through and strangle her."

Clinton's campaign responded that Walsh was "using a figure of speech that should not be taken literally."

"At today's event, a veteran told a story about losing his job at HP, expressing his frustration at the way he was treated. He was using a figure of speech that should not be taken literally," said Deputy Communications Director Christina Reynolds. "Hillary Clinton doesn't hesitate to speak out against hateful or threatening rhetoric, but this vet did not intend to express either of those things, and Republicans should not try to pretend otherwise."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Detrow is a political correspondent for NPR. He covers the 2020 presidential campaign and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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