Carly Fiorina vanishes after McCain gaffe

LAST UPDATED AT 09:56 ON Thu 18 Sep 2008

Carly Fiorina, who rose from secretary to become chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, and earlier this year was taken on by John McCain as his chief economic advisor, has suddenly vanished from public view after making a horrible gaffe during a radio interview.

The host asked Fiorina whether she thought McCain's Republican running-mate Sarah Palin had the experience to run a major company like Hewlett-Packard. To which Fiorina replied: "No, I don't. That's not what she is running for."

She might have got away with it if she had stopped there. But in a later television interview, when asked about her Palin comment, she said: "Well, I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation."

Fiorina, 54, tried to get out of it by adding other names to her list of commercial incompetents - Barack Obama and Joe Biden for starters - but the damage was done. Within hours, all further media appearances by Fiorina were cancelled.

The irony is that there are many in corporate America who would argue that Fiorina herself is unqualified to run a major company. Although she was labelled the most powerful businesswoman in America, she was forced out of Hewlett-Packard in 2005 by the company's board of directors.

During her six years as CEO, the stock price dropped 50 per cent - only picking up slightly when she announced her resignation. "The stock is up a bit on the fact that nobody liked Carly's leadership all that much," said economics analyst Robert Cihra at the time, adding that Wall Street had "lost all faith in her and the market's hope is that anyone will be better".

Fiorina walked away from HP with $45m, including a £21.4m severance package - not something to boast about now that everyone, McCain and Palin included, is busy expressing outrage at the rewards for greedy executives. · 

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