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Carly Fiorina Says 'We Need To Give Every President A Chance'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're spending this hour checking on the women's marches taking place in cities around the U.S. and around the world as hundreds of thousands of people react to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States. But we also want to share a reaction from a woman with a slightly different take on things. She is a former political opponent of Donald Trump's, who eventually supported his candidacy, Carly Fiorina. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard is one of the few women to run a Fortune 100 company.

She was the only female Republican who ran for the presidential nomination last year. We reached Carly Fiorina in Arlington, Va., late Friday. She didn't attend the inauguration, and I asked her why.

CARLY FIORINA: Well, I - having been to an inauguration or two, I've learned the hard way that the best seat is usually in front of a television.

MARTIN: Any reactions?

FIORINA: Look, I think his address is what we should have expected from him. He's sounded many of the same notes and many of the same themes that he did throughout his campaign. I, in particular, liked his comment about the most important thing being that the government belongs to the people. I actually very much appreciated his line if you are a patriot, there is no room in your heart for prejudice. I think that is very true. But I think there wasn't anything surprising about the tone of his speech.

MARTIN: A lot of women from both sides of the political spectrum came to know you as one of the first women and certainly one of the few Republicans to directly address now President Trump's belittling comments about women. I'm playing a clip here of a pretty famous moment during the presidential primaries.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAKE TAPPER: Last week in Rolling Stone Magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you quote, "look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that - the face of our next president?" Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: You know, it's interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: And, of course, in October, after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes of Donald Trump overheard saying inappropriate things, you posted a critical comment on Facebook calling for him to step down from the ticket and suggesting that Mike Pence would be a better choice as the nominee. So, of course, I want to hear why after all that you eventually supported somebody that you called the Kim Kardashian of American politics.

FIORINA: Because as I also said for two years, Hillary Clinton, in my view, would make a terrible president. And the reason I have said that is because I disagree profoundly with her policies, particularly those she espoused during the general election. But also because she is the definition of the political class that 80 percent of the American people are tired of. This was an election about change. The choice people had in the general election was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. And Hillary Clinton represented more of the same. And for me, we didn't need more of the same. We needed a change.

MARTIN: Let me ask you though about the - thoughts about the marches going on around the country this weekend. You know, a lot of women say that Donald Trump's attitude about women is exactly why they just can't support him even now. And I wanted to ask you your thoughts about this.

FIORINA: You know, I think, first of all, this is America. People have the right to express their point of view in a peaceful way any time and anywhere they want. I am disappointed, I guess I would say, that some people find it impossible to separate the process and the institution and the transfer of power from a person that they disagree with.

Here's what I would say - first, I think we need to give every president a chance. I didn't vote for President Obama, but I rooted for his success because I think a president's success impacts us all. The second thing I would say more specifically is despite my strenuous objections to our new president's words and attitudes and behavior, in many cases towards women, I also see that in his own businesses he gave real positions of responsibility to very accomplished women.

And he has done so in his cabinet as well - Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao. These are extremely accomplished women. And so I think his behavior would suggest that he recognizes talent when he sees it, and he's prepared to use that talent no matter what size or shape it comes in.

MARTIN: Does Donald Trump or the Republican Party on the whole have work to do in addressing the concerns of women?

FIORINA: Well, I think the Republican Party in general does. I've been public about that for some time. Clearly, I think Donald Trump does. I also believe that the women, for example, that are marching, have said that women who are pro-life are not welcome. I don't understand that. In other words, I think we've reached a point where there are people who call themselves feminists, who believe that unless you agree with them on topics, you're not somehow in favor of empowering women. My candidacy, just as an example, for presidency was called an offense to women...

MARTIN: Forgive me. I don't recall that.

FIORINA: ...Because...

MARTIN: By whom? Who called it an offense?

FIORINA: Emily's List among others. But mostly what people objected to was the fact that I happened to be pro-life. So my point is this - I think women, like men, can disagree about the solutions to problems. That doesn't mean that someone is disrespectful to women because they disagree with some other women.

MARTIN: I take it you won't be at the marches then.

FIORINA: I will not. No.

MARTIN: OK - will be in front of the television watching them either?

FIORINA: Probably not.

MARTIN: Probably not. OK.

FIORINA: I have lots of things to do with my family on Saturdays usually.

MARTIN: That was former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. She was kind enough to join us from the studios of WETA in Arlington, Va. Carly Fiorina, thank you so much for speaking with us.

FIORINA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.