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Background Check: Why Was Carly Fiorina Fired From HP?

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina defended her record as the head of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina defended her record as chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

She said that her tenure at the technology company — during what she called, “the worst technology recession in 25 years” — required tough decisions.

“It is a leader's job to challenge the status quo,” Fiorina told Chuck Todd during her “Meet the Candidates” interview, “and when you do, you make enemies.”

Fiorina also addressed the fact that she’s never held elective office before. “I think many, many voters actually now are looking for someone from outside the political class,” she said. “They believe that we need to challenge the status quo of Washington.”

Fiorina’s involvement in politics includes an advisory role for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. She lost a Senate race in California in 2010 to incumbent Barbara Boxer.

But, it is Fiorina’s tenure as the head of HP that gets the most attention. While holding the company’s top job from 1999-2005, she oversaw a merger between HP and rival company Compaq that cut jobs. HP’s board later fired Fiorina in 2005.

A website,, attacks Fiorina’s record at HP, alleging she laid off 30,000 workers. Fiorina said that while “there’s nothing worse than laying someone off,” many technology companies went by the wayside in that era.

“What people fail to comment on is the fact that we doubled the size of the company ... We went from lagging behind in every product category to leading in every product category. And yes, in fact, we grew jobs here in the U.S. and all over the world,” she said. “You can't just leave those facts out. Because they are as vital to the record to the fact that yes, indeed, I had to make some tough calls during some tough times.”

Fiorina said her experience in both the private sector and politics give her qualifications others don’t have. “I understand executive decision making, which is making a tough call in a tough time, for which you are prepared to be held accountable,” she said. “(This is) something that at least Hillary Clinton doesn't have a track record of.”

— Daniel Cooney