Businesswoman Carly Fiorina took a shot at GOP presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE in Thursday’s early debate.

Fiorina criticized Trump for his connections with former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonObama calls on governments to 'do their part' in increasing global vaccine supply China's emissions now eclipse the developed world — preventing climate protection Trump endorses Glenn Youngkin in Virginia governors race MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit More than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record MORE, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't,” Fiorina said at the beginning of Thursday’s debate for candidates outside the GOP’s top 10.


She was referring to reports that Trump, who will be on stage during the prime-time GOP debate, spoke with Bill Clinton ahead of his campaign launch. 

“Maybe it's because I haven't given money to the foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign,” Fiorina added.

Trump spoke with Bill Clinton weeks before he launched his White House bid, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The former president reportedly urged Trump to play a larger role in Republican politics.

Hillary Clinton's communications director on Thursday denied that Bill Clinton offered Trump advice when the two spoke in May, suggesting that Trump's White House bid was his decision alone.

The celebrity real estate developer has since skyrocketed to the top of the GOP pack in recent polling.

Fiorina acknowledged Thursday evening that Trump has received support from those frustrated with politics.

“I think he's tapped into an anger that people feel. They're sick of politics as usual,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said. 

“Whatever your issue, your cause, the festering problem you hoped would be resolved, the political class has failed you,” added Fiorina, the only woman on stage for either debate.

Before Fiorina’s jab, one of the debate moderators questioned former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about whether Trump was “getting the better of him” in the race.

Perry replied that Trump’s celebrity “says a lot” about his poll numbers. He questioned whether the businessman is a true conservative, given some of his past positions. 

“How can you run for the Republican nomination and be for single-payer healthcare? I mean, I ask that with all due respect,” Perry said, referring to Trump’s past endorsement of the idea.

— This story was updated at 6:06 p.m.