Carly Fiorina: ‘CEOs Are Being Pressured’ to Oppose ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws

PHOTO: Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, walks the hallway before her speech at CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. PlayBill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP Photo
WATCH Carly Fiorina: 'CEOs Are Being Pressured' to Oppose 'Religious Freedom' Laws

While likely 2016 presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina doesn’t have any experience in elected office, as the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, one thing she knows first-hand is what it’s like to lead a major company.

Corporate leaders have been out front this week with both Arkansas and Indiana moving to adopt controversial new "religious freedom" legislation. Opponents of the bills contend they could allow business owners to use religion to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.

In light of these laws, this week business giants like Walmart, Apple and Marriott publicly opposed the recent wave of "religious freedom" legislation. But in a recent interview, Fiorina told "Power Players" the public outcry has put stress on the shoulders of private business leaders to take a political stance on the matter.

“I think it's really too bad, honestly, that CEOs are being pressured. ... It's pressure by people in the political process to take a stand,” she said. “None of us support discrimination of any kind. Certainly, Indiana doesn't. The law doesn't condone discrimination of any kind. But we also protect religious liberties in this country.”

On ABC News' “This Week” last Sunday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who signed the bill into law last week, told George Stephanopoulos the act intends to prevent government from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs. But after becoming the subject of harsh national criticism, Pence began to walk back his position, telling reporters this week that he needed to revisit the issue. However, Fiorina backed Pence’s original defense of such laws, saying they protect individual religious beliefs from government regulation.

“What this law basically says is that a person can push back against ... either federal government mandate or state government mandate to exert their religious liberties,” Fiorina said. “It says nothing about gay marriage.”

“We don't object -- although we don’t like it -- when white supremacists gather and say terrible things. But we protect their right to do it,” she later added.

Fiorina said it’s issues like this, in which she argues the facts are wrong, that unnecessarily -- and problematically -- dominate national attention in America.

“I think it's one of the reasons why people are sick of politics, people are sick of how it sounds ... people are tired of how emotional it gets in a hurry,” she said. “I think people are tired of what feels like too much like shouting back and forth instead of having a reasonable and persuasive conversation.”

But such sharp contentiousness, the potential presidential contender believes, is perpetuated by politicos who stand to benefit.

“Unfortunately, politicians on both sides tend to use this dysfunction to get people all fired up. Meanwhile, we have real issues we need to be attending to,” Fiorina said.

As for her own political ambitions, Fiorina confirmed recent comments she’s made about being “90 percent in” to vie for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“You have to be thoughtful about making this kind of decision,” she said. “If I get in, I will be prepared to go the long haul. And so that means a lot of planning, a lot of team building, a lot of testing of support.

“This isn't a casual decision,” she added. “Until the final decision’s made, it's not made.”

As it stands, Fiorina is the only female who's expressed interest in competing for the 2016 Republican ticket thus far. But if she’s the only woman on the GOP debate stage later this year, she said it won’t be anything new.

“Honestly, it's kind of the story of my life,” Fiorina said. “I started out as a secretary. Eventually, I became that chief executive of the largest technology company in the world. I sat in a lot of rooms where I'm the only woman, and I've been in a lot of competitive situations where I'm the only woman.”

However, being the only female on the political stage will be a first for Fiorina.

“Obviously, presidential politics is unlike anything else -- but being the only woman isn't a new experience,” she added.

For more of the interview with Fiorina, including whether Hillary Clinton will impact her decision to run, watch this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC's Richard Coolidge, Tom Thornton, Katelyn Marmon and Brian Yaklyvich contributed to this episode.

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