- Hillary Clinton laughed when a former Hewlett-Packard worker joked that he wanted to strangle former HP CEO Carly Fiorina
- Republicans quickly hit Clinton for laughing at the comment, but the Clinton campaign said the man was obviously joking
"She says she's a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her," said the man during a question-and-answer session, eliciting laughter from the crowd. Clinton herself couldn't hold back her laughs.
"I know that doesn't sound very nice," said the man, who added that he was laid off during Fiorina's tenure. Clinton then jumped in and said, "I wouldn't mess with you!"
Conservatives on Twitter quickly blasted Clinton for not condemning the man's remarks against Fiorina, the only other female major party candidate. The Republican National Committee quickly sent out a press release criticizing the Democratic front-runner.
"By laughing off a male questioner's desire to strangle Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have lost all credibility claiming to be a party that stands up for women," RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. "Jokes about committing acts of violence against women are always in poor taste and should be condemned every time."
After the event, Clinton simply shook her head to indicate "no" when asked if she believed the man literally would try to strangle Fiorina. She did not say, however, whether she should not have laughed at the man's comment.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill later told a CNN reporter, "You were there. What was your take? It was a joke."
Tuesday night, Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, released a statement to CNN saying the man's remark was a "figure of speech."
"At today's event, a veteran told a story about losing his job at HP, expressing his frustration at the way he was treated," Reynolds said. "He was using a figure of speech that should not be taken literally. 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."
The Fiorina campaign indirectly responded to the exchange by knocking the mainstream media, pointing to a tweet from spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.
"Let's all watch @HillaryClinton's media lapdogs explain why this is ok in 3, 2, 1....#whatbias," Flores tweeted.
Fiorina herself failed to correct a voter in New Hampshire earlier this month who called President Barack Obama a "Muslim."
"He's a Muslim. He's a black Muslim," the man said, to which Fiorina responded, "Well, time to do something different in many ways."