Exclusive: Carly Fiorina on running for president in 2016

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," May 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Well, she is one of the most successful businesswomen in America. And now she has said good-bye to her corporate office and has her sights set on an oval one, becoming the first Republican woman to run for the White House this year.


KELLY: Born September 6, 1954 in Austin, Texas, Cara Carleton Sneed better known as Carly Fiorina, is the middle child of Joseph and Madeleine Sneed. Her parents both World War II veterans. While her father, professor, worked his way up the academic ladder, the family moved around a lot with Fiorina attending schools around the world. In her memoir "Tough Choices," Fiorina says --

CARLY FIORINA, 2016 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was perpetually the new kid in class, and as the new kid, I wanted desperately to fit in, to be liked, to make friends.

Her dad would become dean of Duke Law School and a trail blazer in his own right, a staunch conservative judge on the very liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1976, she earned a degree from Stanford. From there, she followed in dad's footsteps, heading off to law school. But unlike her father, Fiorina dropped out after just one semester.

FIORINA: I felt happy, afraid, but happy. I grew up that day. I had made a truly difficult decision on my own. I felt lonely in that choice, afraid of its consequences, but certain I had chosen well.

KELLY: Soon she found work as a receptionist at a real estate firm where she worked her way up the corporate ladder, eventually landing at AT&T where she excelled in business and romance, falling for her future husband, Frank Fiorina.

Carly's first marriage had ended in divorce. She says her ex was threatened by her success. With Frank, however, it was love at first sight. On their third date, he told her someday she'd be CEO of AT&T, and he was almost right. Frank and Carly later married and she helped raise his girls.

FIORINA: Traci was grown up beyond her years. Lori starved for affection. I fell in love with both of them, too, over our first meal together of Chinese takeout.

KELLY: In the mid-1990s, she would be the spinoff of AT&T and recognized by "Fortune Magazine" as the most powerful woman in business for six consecutive years. And remember Frank's earlier prediction? Well, in 1999, Hewlett-Packard came calling, and she became the first female CEO of a top 20 U.S. corporation.

Once there she restored HP to one of the jewels of Silicon Valley. She also engineered a $25 billion acquisition of Compaq.

FIORINA: This is about building the new HP way.

KELLY: While the deal was criticized at the time and a large number of people lost jobs, it has since been hailed by some as a success. But in 2005, HP fired her after she and directors disagreed about corporate strategy. The next year, she would release a best-selling memoir and later she emerged as an economic adviser for John McCain's presidential campaign.

FIORINA: I think leadership is not about position. It is not about power. It is not about title. Leadership is about character. And this is a man who has demonstrated character over and over and over again.

KELLY: McCain didn't win and Fiorina's disappointment soon turned to heartbreak. In February 2009, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing a double mastectomy and treatment which caused her to lose her hair. And then in October, devastation, as her beloved stepdaughter, Lori, died, at just 35 years old.

At the time, Fiorina was about to launch her first political campaign. Despite her family tragedy, she ran for U.S. Senate trying to unseat incumbent Barbara Boxer.

FIORINA: As of today, game on, Barbara.

KELLY: The senator easily won the contest. In the years since, Fiorina has served on a number of boards, traveled extensively, and given many speeches, opening up about her personal story and her love of country.

FIORINA: I have lived all over the world, traveled and worked all over the world. And I know that it is only in the United States of America that a young woman can start as a secretary and go on to become the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world. That is only possible here.


KELLY: And now the one-time secretary turned CEO sees yet another possibility, breaking what one woman famously called the highest, hardest, glass ceiling of all.

FIORINA: I'm Carly Fiorina, and I'm running for president.


KELLY: Joining me now, Carly Fiorina, whose book "Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey" hit shelves today. Carly, great to see you.

FIORINA: Thank you so much for having me.

KELLY: Thank you for being here. So, let's talk about leadership. What --what do you say is your single greatest qualification to lead?

FIORINA: Well, I think it's knowing what leadership is. Leadership is not the same as management. Management is about doing the best you can within the status quo. Leadership is about changing the status quo when it needs changing. And I think it needs changing in Washington right now, and leadership, as I said in that clip, is not about position or power or title. It's about unlocking the potential of others. And I think now in this nation, we need a leader in the Oval Office who understands how to unlock and unleash the potential of this nation once again.

KELLY: You spoke in that piece about John McCain and his character and how you think that that -- that is what is essential in a good leader, character. Describe -- describe your character. Because already folks are coming out and saying, "Well, everyone who's held this office that she aspires to has been a politician, has been elected to office, has served in the U.S. military, and she hasn't."

FIORINA: Yes, it's true that I haven't, and all the voters that I've met across this country and especially recently in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, they actually consider that a great asset. You know, the professional political class is a modern invention. Ours was intended to be a citizen government. That's what by, for, and of the people means.

And somehow in the last 50 years, we've come up with this idea that only professional politicians can run for office. What leadership takes is character. Character to the point of your question, character is about being a person of integrity, of trustworthiness, of honesty.

Leadership takes experience and wisdom and while I've not held elected office, I understand how the economy works, I know more world leaders on the stage today than anyone else running with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, and I've done business with them and I've had photo ops with them.

I understand bureaucracy and how it works. I understand technology and how it works. And government is a big bloated bureaucracy and technology could be used to help. And most importantly, perhaps of all, I understand executive decision-making.


FIORINA: -- which is making a tough call in a tough time with high stakes for which you're prepared to be held accountable. And you don't learn that in a book.

KELLY: Last time around Mitt Romney got hit for, you know, almost being too successful. They hung Bane around his neck like an albatross and they dismissed him as a one percenter. How will you avoid that kind of attack?

FIORINA: Well, there are some who will attack my record at HP, and I will hit back with the facts. We took a company in the middle of the worst technology recession in 25 years and took it from $44 billion to almost $90 billion. We took the growth rate from two percent to nine percent. We tripled the rate of innovation to 11 patents a day. We went from lagging behind in every product category to leading in every product category.


KELLY: I don't know that much about business but I will say --


FIORINA: But you know those are good numbers.

KELLY: Those sound like good numbers but then the critics say, "Oh, but the share price went down and.


KELLY: -- and the profits went down."


KELLY: So, they say the revenues went up but the share prices went down.

FIORINA: Actually, profits went up. The share price did go down. Remember, we were so happy two weeks ago when the NASDAQ finally returned after 15 years to its dotcom boom high. In truth, every technology company's stock went down in that difficult period. It was a difficult time.

KELLY: Yes. Let me ask you about the life issue, because that's one thing -- I know you're pro-life. Do you believe, you know, life begins at conception, and if so, can there be any exceptions for abortion, could there be any sort of time in which it's allowed?

FIORINA: Yes. Well, I do believe life begins at conception, and I think science is starting to prove us right every day which is why you see the majority of young people now changing their views on abortion. We now know from scientific evidence, for example, that the DNA and the zygote is exactly the same DNA as the day you die.

KELLY: If that's -- if that's true, and obviously it is, I mean, that scientific fact is not disputed, then -- then where do you stand on, you know, fertilization techniques, like in vitro? Because in the same way, folks look at the left and say Debbie Wasserman-Schultz may be too far to the left when it comes to a 7-pound baby in the womb, some folks look at the right and say, "Well, they're too far, they're too extreme when it comes to something like that."

FIORINA: Yeah, well I think that some of these techniques, personally, make me uncomfortable. You know, I think we're starting to hear stories now every day of people literally create, cloning babies, et cetera. I mean, that goes too far in my personal opinion.

But here's I think the real thing, Megyn. I think that politics always fights about the extremes when what we have in front of us right now is common ground that the majority of Americans, young people, and women agree on, and that is that abortion for any reason at all after five months is wrong. Majority of Americans now --

KELLY: They're with you on that.

FIORINA: -- believe that. So, let's take that common ground.

KELLY: Last question. Today, you said that we can all agree that -- that we are relieved those six cops in Baltimore got arrested. You know, our viewers would say, we are not relieved, a lot of the viewers. Because we had the cop on earlier saying, this is wrong. And some people think it's a travesty. Did you -- do you want to modify that or do you stand by that?

FIORINA: Well, here's what I think. I mean, we've seen videos of what appears to be sort of a lifeless body getting dragged into a van. We've heard doctors say that it's virtually impossible to sever your own spinal cord with self-injury. We know that the van took an unscheduled stop. I think the point is that there's enough evidence here that people needed to be charged. We're now going to hear the evidence which is, of course, what a court of law is all about. But I think to have said nothing went wrong here would have strained credulity honesty.

KELLY: Carly Fiorina off to Iowa, New Hampshire and all the rest of it. We will be watching you a long way.

FIORINA: Thank you so much, Megyn.

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