Television mogul Oprah Winfrey has provided Congress with a taped episode of her former talk show featuring the divorced wife of President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of labor, CEO Andrew Puzder of CKE Restaurants. Puzder's wife had accused him of domestic violence in the episode, but has since retracted her accusations.
Puzder's nomination to head the Labor Department has been rocked by several scandals, from the accusations of domestic violence to the disclosure that he employed an undocumented immigrant as his housekeeper for years. With Democratic lawmakers expected to be unified in opposition to his confirmation, Puzder can only afford two GOP senators voting against him. As of Feb. 15, six Republicans are on the fence.
The Oprah Winfrey Network gave the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions a tape of a rare episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that aired in March 1990, Politico reports.
The theme of that episode had been wealthy women who had suffered from domestic abuse. It featured Puzder's ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, who was disguised during her interview's recording.
The chairman of the HELP committee, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, arranged for his colleagues to watch the taped episode. In his view, the television episode is relevant evidence, but Fierstein's accusations will not impact his planned vote for Puzder.
"That happened 27 years ago," Alexander said. "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."
Fierstein retracted her accusations against Puzder as part of a child-custody agreement shortly after taping the Winfrey episode. She also penned a letter to the HELP committee stating: "I regret my decision to appear on that show."
Puzder has also disclosed that he had employed an undocumented immigrant as his housekeeper. The nominee asserted that he had let her go in 2012 after learning of her legal status but did not begin paying back employment taxes for her services until after Trump appointed him.
On Feb. 14, four GOP senators from the HELP committee announced that they are not committed to confirming Puzder. Because the GOP only has a 52-seat majority in the Senate, Puzder would need two of those lawmakers to change their minds to be confirmed, CNN reports.
The HELP committee members who will oppose Puzder are Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
On Feb. 15, Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and John Thune of South Dakota announced that they were also undecided on supporting Puzder. With six Republicans now skeptical of the labor secretary nominee, Puzder will have a lot on the line when he testifies before the HELP committee on Feb. 16, The Washington Post reports.