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Michelle Ye Hee Lee’s Fumbled Hatchet Job on Carly Fiorina September 25, 2015

Posted by geoff in News.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee (MYHL), the so-called “fact-checker” at the Washington Post, is at it again. This time she’s taking aim at Carly Fiorina, trying to discredit her “secretary-to-CEO of HP” story. Here’s the setup:

Fiorina’s description of rising “from secretary to CEO” conjures a Horatio Alger-like narrative where a character starts at the lowest ranks of an industry, pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and, against all odds, reaches the top position in the industry.

When Fiorina uses this phrase, she often pairs it with saying she came from a “modest and middle class family,” or “challenging the status quo,” which frames her story as an unlikely upstart.

And here’s the kick-in-Carly’s-teeth part:

Her father was dean of Duke Law School when she was at Stanford, meaning Duke would have paid for most of her college tuition. She graduated from Stanford, and her elite degree played a role blah, blah, blah…

Fiorina uses a familiar, “mailroom to boardroom” trope of upward mobility that the public is familiar with, yet her story is nothing like that. In telling her only-in-America story, she conveniently glosses over the only-for-Fiorina opportunities and options beyond what the proverbial mailroom worker has. As such, she earns Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios is reserved for “significant factual errors or contradictions,” so it’s basically saying that Fiorina’s story is incorrect.

But of course, it’s not. The only errors here are in MYHL’s obvious biased interpretation of the facts.

MYHL’s argument basically comes down to this: Carly Fiorina went to Stanford, which kick-started her career. Somehow the fact that Ms. Fiorina went to Stanford tainted everything thereafter, so she doesn’t deserve any credit for climbing the ladder to the position of CEO at Hewlett-Packard.

That’s simple and obvious bunk, with a laughably prejudiced interpretation of events. Here’s the real story:

Carly Fiorina graduated from Stanford with a completely useless degree in Medieval History & Philosophy. She tried law school but hated it, so she worked as a receptionist while she tried to figure out what to do. Then she moved to Italy and taught English, still trying to find a direction. After some time in Italy she came back to the US and entered business school, and that launched her career.

You can see that her Stanford degree wasn’t a huge asset, and if you read her story, you find that it was her persistence, initiative, and performance that earned her a fast track to upper level management. She managed to impress her teachers and managers at each stage, so they recommended her for advancement and special opportunities. Her career arc resembles a Horatio Alger story far more than the “born with a silver spoon” narrative MYHL is trying to sell.

So, did she start from the bottom, re-invent herself, and make it to the top? She certainly did. It is, once again, MYHL who is the dishonest storyteller here.

I don’t know if her bias stems from her progressive bent, or from the jealousy of someone who could never get into Stanford, but whatever the source, it’s huge and blatant.


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