Donald Trump's sexist attack on Carly Fiorina: "Look at that face"

The Donald insists he is only referring to the former HP executive's "persona"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 10, 2015 12:46PM (EDT)

Donald Trump                      (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)
Donald Trump (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)

Donald Trump may have laughed at his Republican rival Carly Fiorina's face, asking "would anyone vote for that," but the Republican frontrunner insists that he was in no way making a sexist attack, claiming he was actually just "talking about persona."

Rolling Stone's Paul Solotaroff spent 10 days with The Donald to "peer behind the scrim of his bluster and self-mythos and get a very good look at the man" and describes one encounter aboard Trump's plane where "Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina."

“Look at that face!” he said at a conference table while he and his staff laughed as Fiorina took a question about him on television. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

After some nervous chuckles from his staffers, the real estate mogul reportedly added: "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"

In an interview with Fox News this morning, Trump did not deny the report but insisted that he made the comment in a "jocular manner" and that he was actually referring to Fiorina's "persona," not looks.

"Probably I did say something like that about Carly," Trump told the "Fox & Friends" hosts. "I'm talking about persona. I'm not talking about look."

Trump then complained that the media ignored attacks against his appearance. "When I get criticized constantly about my hair, nobody does a story about 'Oh isn't that terrible, they criticized Donald Trump's hair,'" he said.

Perhaps belying his relaxed policy on casual sexism behind the scenes of the campaign trail, Trump mocked the idea of sexist political attacks during a recent campaign rally:

Carly was a little nasty to me — be careful, Carly! Be careful ... But I can't say anything to her because she's a woman. . . . I promised that I wouldn't say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground. I said I wouldn't say it! That her stock value tanked. That she laid off tens of thousands of people, and she got viciously fired. I said I will not say that. And that she then went out and ran against Barbara Boxer, and . . . lost in a landslide. And I said, 'I. Will. Not. Say. That!

On Kelly's Fox News show last night, Fiorina shrugged off Trump's insults: “Honestly, Megyn, I’m not going to spend a single cycle wondering what Donald Trump means, but maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit, because I am climbing in the polls.”

“I think those comments speak for themselves,” she added.

Trump has shown virtually no restraint for attacks against other women. So far in his campaign, the 2016 presidential hopeful has taken the time to remind us that Heidi Klum is "no longer a 10," almost definitely made a menstrual comment about Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, and joked about referring to Rosie O'Donnell as a "fat pig."

When pushed about his latest attack on Fiorina by CNN's Chris Coumo today, Trump denied insulting her physical appearance.

“Why do you talk about the way women look so much?” Cuomo asked. “You know it’s not presidential.”

“I’m not talking about her looks,” Trump said, “I’m talking about her persona.”

“You said ‘Look at that face!’ You said ‘Look at that face!’” Cuomo replied before Trump moved on to attack Fiorina's record at Hewlett-Packard.

Trump recently became the only candidate to top 30 percent support nationally.

Donald Trump Insults Carly Fiorina

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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