Carly Fiorina Loves Talking About Porn-Watching Federal Employees

But do they really exist?

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Address South Carolina Freedom Summit
Photographer: Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is a favorite with conservative audiences, and one of the lines in her stump speech that’s most reliably crowd-pleasing is a remark about how, as an employee of our messed-up federal government, you really can sit around and watch porn all day and still take home the same pay as the diligent employee in the next cubicle who’s actually working for a living.

Sometimes, she says it in the context of the need to “reimagine government.” On other occasions, she cites federal porn fans in conversations about gender and fair pay. During a Wednesday news conference in front of the hotel here where Hillary Clinton was about to speak about equal pay, for instance, Fiorina said, as she has before, that one of the biggest obstacles to fair pay is the seniority system:

“The federal government is a seniority system; they don’t pay for performance … A man can sit in a federal government job and watch pornography all day long, while he earns the same pay and benefits as a woman sitting next to him trying to do a good job.”

So, is the federal porn aficionado as unrepresentative as Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac-driving welfare cheat—who did exist, but was a notorious con woman also under investigation for murder, kidnapping, and selling babies? Not exactly, it turns out.

When asked about which workers she’s thinking of when she tells the story, her campaign pointed to a Washington Times story last summer about a Federal Communications Commission worker who told investigators that yes, he did surf porn at work, “out of boredom,’’ sometimes for eight hours a day.

The story also cited a Treasury Department employee “who viewed more than 13,000 pornographic images in a six-week span,’’ and said “investigations in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commerce Department and the General Services Administration have turned up similar cases.”

Fiorina’s enduring interest in the story, said campaign spokeswoman Anna Epstein, comes from the fact that “when we’re talking about equal pay, we’re talking about fairness. When a federal employee who is watching porn all day, or surfing Facebook for that matter, gets paid the same as someone who is doing their job, it’s not fair.”

Of course, mentioning porn rather than Facebook makes for a better soundbite, and casts federal employees as pervy as well as underemployed. 

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