*Oprah Winfrey may play a significant role in whether or not President Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, is confirmed by the Senate.
According to Politico, senators in both parties have viewed an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which Puzder’s former wife, Lisa Fierstein, leveled allegations of physical abuse against him. The footage, which had been hard to track down, was provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network to senators in a Capitol Hill office building, according to people who have seen it.
Last month the website reported that Fierstein wore a disguise to discuss her abuse allegations on a March 1990 episode of “Oprah” titled “High-Class Battered Women. Fierstein has since retracted her abuse allegations, most recently in a letter to the Senate HELP Committee.
“I’ve arranged for senators on the committee to see that … I thought that was a reasonable request. No reason not to see it,” said Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “That happened 27 years ago. His former wife has said it was all not true. She has reiterated that in a heartfelt letter to members of the committee and has been willing to talk to members of the committee so I don’t think that’s an issue. “
Alexander said he supports Puzder’s nomination. But Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the HELP Committee that will vote on Puzder’s nomination, said she was “deeply troubled” by the video. “It was important for us to know all of the information about any candidate that comes before us,” Murray said in an interview.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is among at least four GOP senators on the committee who are undecided on Puzder, whose confirmation hearing has been scheduled for Thursday. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina are also not decided on his nomination. All serve on the HELP Committee.
Puzder can only lose two GOP votes if all Democrats oppose his nomination on the Senate floor. It could take just one GOP defection to tag his nomination as “unfavorable” in a committee vote, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring the nomination to the floor.
The abuse allegations aren’t the only controversies hanging over Puzder. His nomination was rocked last week after his spokesman said he had employed an undocumented immigrant for years. The fast-food executive also apprenticed to a Mafia-connected lawyer early in his career, drew criticism for conditions for workers at his CKE restaurant chain and faced accusations of sexism over advertisements showing bikini-clad women eating his company’s hamburgers.
Fierstein’s accusations first surfaced in local news reports around the time of her divorce from Puzder. She has since suggested she made them up to bolster her divorce settlement. Puzder has always denied that he abused her.
Fierstein appeared on “Oprah” in a wig and glasses, and was identified only by the made-up name of Ann.