In 1990, the ex-wife of a high-profile attorney named Andrew Puzder appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, wearing a disguise and using an assumed name. Without using his name, she alleged that her ex-husband physically abused her and threatened her when she first made her allegations public. Twenty-seven years later, Puzder is Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Labor, and a tape of the Oprah episode being circulated among senators is his biggest roadblock toward getting confirmed, Politico reports.
The bizarre story is made even more complicated by the fact that Lisa Fierstein, Puzder’s ex-wife, has since said that she fabricated the claims of abuse. In advance of Puzder’s confirmation hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, Fierstein wrote a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions that she had been “caught up in the notion of a free trip to Chicago and being a champion of women and women’s issues,” and that she regrets her decision to appear on the show. She has also said that she made up the allegations to gain a favorable divorce settlement.
A tape of the episode, which features Fierstein wearing a wig and glasses and using the name Ann, was provided to senators on the HELP committee by the Oprah Winfrey Network. The episode had apparently been taken out of wide circulation at some point, and one senator told Politico that not even her staffers were permitted to view it. However, after the existence of the tape was reported, another woman who appears in the episode provided a tape of Fierstein’s appearance to Politico, which you can watch below.
As of today, there are six GOP senators who are undecided about confirming Puzder. If two of them were to flip, and every Democratic senator voted against him, he would not be confirmed. And the Oprah tape isn’t the only thing that might sway them: there are also concerns about his years-long employment of an undocumented immigrant and delayed payment of back taxes on the employee’s wages, and his ties to a Mafia lawyer.
In the episode, titled “High-Class Battered Women,” Fierstein said she’d called the police on her ex-husband for abusing her, and that he told her “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this,” when she first went public with her claims.
On one hand, if Fierstein’s allegations are true and could be proven, it would seem like a death knell for Puzder’s nomination as labor secretary. On the other, it wasn’t that long ago that we learned about disgusting crimes allegedly committed against women by another man seeking public office, via another years-old tape from a television show, and everyone thought it was going to sink that guy’s career, too. We know how that turned out.
UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): Puzder has reportedly withdrawn his name from the nomination, and an anonymous source provided CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett with a frankly incredible quote about his reasoning.
News: Source very close to Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder tells me he expects Puzder to withdraw. "He's very tired of the abuse."
— Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) February 15, 2017
Watch the Oprah segment below via Politico.