An old episode of “Oprah” has become the latest in a series of controversies discussed in the confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor.
Senators weighing the nomination of fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, 66, watched a decades-old episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which his ex-wife claims he abused her, Politico reported Monday. The episode from March 1990, titled “High-Class Battered Women,” was provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network and viewed at a Capitol Hill office building.
“I’ve arranged for senators on the committee to see that,” said Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., according to Politico. “I thought that was a reasonable request. No reason not to see it.” Alexander added that Lisa Fierstein, the ex-wife of Puzder, now the CEO of CKE Restaurants, operator of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has since retracted her claims — she articulated as much in a “heartfelt letter to members of the committee.” “I don’t think it’s an issue,” Alexander said.
Rumblings of the tape’s existence started last month, sparking an outcry from women’s rights groups. Politico said it obtained court records indicating that Fierstein filed at least three legal documents accusing Puzder of battery in May 1986. She alleged that Puzder “assaulted and battered” her by “striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders, and neck without provocation or cause.” The couple were married for 14 years and divorced in 1987. At the time of the allegations, Puzder was working as a trial lawyer in St. Louis.
The emergence of those allegations is just the latest obstacle on Puzder’s road to confirmation as Labor Secretary. Other controversies that have repeatedly delayed his confirmation hearings include his admission that he employed an undocumented housekeeper, his support for robots replacing workers, scaling back of workplace protections, and advertising his fast-food chains with scantily clad women.
Four GOP senators plan to oppose Puzder’s confirmation, CNN reported, prompting a fierce rallying effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, to regain their support. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Tim Scott (South Carolina) and Johnny Isakson (Georgia) are the lawmakers currently on the fence. Collins and Murkowski were the only two Republican senators who also opposed the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
No Democrats are expected to vote “yes” on Puzder’s nomination, so Republicans need at least 50 votes, which would tie them with the Democrats, and require the intervention of Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote (which is what happened with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos last week). If McConnell cannot rally the defecting GOP senators, he may have to advise the president to withdraw his nomination of Puzder.