"The point is, whether a man thinks you're homely or a man thinks you're beautiful, it's not a topic of conversation when a woman is trying to do a job – whether it's president of the United States or secretary or anything else," the GOP presidential hopeful tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.
Trump, 69, came under fire for taking aim at Fiorina's looks during a recent interview with Rolling Stone. "Look at that face!" the magazine quoted Trump as saying. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president. I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
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The Carly for America Committee quickly retaliated with a web campaign ad called "Look at This Face," showing Fiorina speaking at a Republican women's event.
"Ladies, look at this face," Fiorina said in the ad. "And look at all your faces. The face of leadership. This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle."
With Fiorina climbing in the polls, Trump tried to backpedal on his comments in subsequent interviews on Fox & Friends and The View, claiming he was referencing his rival's "persona" and not her looks. And when the topic came up during the Republican debate, he said of the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, "I think she's got a beautiful face and I think she's a beautiful woman."
But his words were lost on Fiorina.
"There's a time and a place for a man to say, 'You're a beautiful woman' – but it's not in the middle of a professional setting when a woman is competing or contributing or doing a job," she says. "I love it when my husband tells me I'm beautiful. That's a compliment and there's a time and a place for it. The debate stage is not [the place]."
For much more on Fiorina, pick up this week's PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday