Andrew Puzder withdraws from nomination for labor secretary
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, withdrew from the confirmation process Wednesday after scrutiny of his personal and professional life made some Republican senators reluctant to confirm him.
Puzder’s nomination began to come apart on Monday, when reports emerged that at least four Republican senators whose votes were key for confirmation had cold feet. By early Wednesday afternoon, CNN reported, those senators had become solid “no” votes, and GOP Senate leadership was urging the White House to kill the nomination.
Officials at the White House declined to comment, but multiple sources on Capitol Hill confirmed that the Puzder nomination is dead.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) February 15, 2017
Puzder, who is credited with reviving the fast-food operator CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger chains, was first nominated for the Labor job in December. Since then, he has been dogged by controversy: a 30-year-old domestic abuse allegation by his ex-wife, Puzder’s admission that he previously employed an undocumented housekeeper, his past remarks expressing a preference for robots over human workers, and CKE’s sexually suggestive ads for its restaurants.
There was also sustained pressure from labor groups like the Fight for $15 movement opposing his confirmation.
Puzder for years employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper, and paid related back taxes to the IRS. In a statement, Puzder said he ended her employment after he learned of her immigration status, and that he “offered her assistance in getting legal status,” which she reportedly declined.
What appears to have truly sunk the nomination, however, is the domestic abuse scandal that has been gathering steam over the past month. In 1990, Puzder’s ex-wife Lisa Fierstein appeared on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” entitled High-Class Battered Women. Wearing a disguise and using a fake name, Fierstein described being assaulted by Puzder. On Wednesday morning, Politico reported that during the appearance, Fierstein said Puzder told her, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.”
Fierstein recanted the allegations less than a year after the TV appearance as part of a child custody arrangement that was worked out after the episode aired. A representative for Puzder and Fierstein says that the two remain friends; she even wrote a letter in support of his nomination. Charlotte Fedders, who appeared alongside Fierstein on the episode to discuss her own abuse at the hands of one-time Securities and Exchange Commission official John Fedders, said recently, however, that she doesn’t believe Fierstein’s disavowal.
“I totally believe that she was abused,” Fedders told Politico. “Powerful men have a way of convincing you that they didn’t do it.”