Gaffe Track: Did Carly's Youth Outreach Go Too Far?

Charlie Neibergall / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Carly Fiorina

The gaffe: On Wednesday, a group of pre-schoolers in Des Moines went on what was billed as a field trip to the botanical gardens. Instead, they somehow ended up seated directly in front of Carly Fiorina and a large anti-abortion poster at a rally. The Guardian suggested Fiorina had herded the class in. “The kids went there to see the plants,” said one father. “She ambushed my son’s field trip …. I would not want my four-year-old going to that forum—he can’t fully comprehend that stuff. He likes dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers.”

The defense: Fiorina’s spokeswoman says the kids followed her into the event on their own after bonding with her while watching koi.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): It’s ironic that a candidate who believes fetuses are autonomous human beings has no hesitations about drafting unwitting pre-schoolers into her rally. It’s not Fiorina’s first headscratching moment on abortion; last fall, she described a video that did not exist, insisting it did. But hey, she could use the attention, however it comes.

The lesson: It’s best to handle divisive issues like abortion with kid gloves, not kid props.