Former labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder on Monday blamed “a tsunami of fake news” and a campaign by Democrats and the left for ending his nomination.
Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., withdrew his nomination to head the Labor Department earlier this month after Senate Republicans told the White House that he lacked enough votes to be confirmed.
In his first interview since pulling his nomination, Puzder told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he was targeted by the press, citing the Huffington Post and POLITICO in particular. These publications demonstrated “little regard for the truth,” Puzder said.
Puzder neither specified what the “fake news” was nor addressed the issues raised by the Huffington Post and POLITICO, and Hewitt did not ask him about them.
The Huffington Post reported that Puzder had employed, several years earlier, an undocumented housekeeper, and that when he found out she was undocumented he “offered her assistance in getting her legal status.” It also reported that he had paid back taxes on the employee. The Wall Street Journal later reported that Puzder didn’t pay the back taxes until after he was nominated for labor secretary. Puzder has never challenged the veractiy of these reports.
POLITICO reported that Puzder’s ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to accuse him of physical abuse during their marriage, repeating accusations she made in court documents in 1986 prior to their separation and 1987 divorce. Fierstein retracted these accusations eight months after her March 1990 “Oprah” appearance as part of a child-custody agreement, later saying that she made the abuse charges to leverage a better divorce settlement.
Fierstein repeated her retraction many times over the years, most recently in a January letter to the Senate HELP Committee. But POLITICO cited certain apparent inconsistencies between Fierstein’s retractions and the public record, and on Feb. 15 reported on, and posted video excerpts from, Fierstein’s “Oprah” appearance. In that appearance, Fierstein said that when she went public with her abuse claims, Puzder said: “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.” Later that day, Senate leaders told the White House that Puzder lacked sufficient votes for confirmation, and Puzder withdrew. Puzder has stated repeatedly that he never abused Fierstein physically.
“These other issues they raised in the process, which really were the ones that ended up sinking the nomination, were really only pretextual,” Puzder told Hewitt, “because, and they were totally — and in addition, they were false.”
In his radio appearance, Puzder was even more vehement denouncing “the left” than he was in denouncing the press. He said the left launched an “enormous campaign to wear down my support.”
“The left is trying to sink as many of the president’s nominees as possible,” Puzder said. “So in that sense, it really wouldn’t have mattered what I believed or who I was or what the process was. They were going to campaign against me as a means of hurting the president.”
Once again, Puzder did not enumerate or respond to the objections raised by labor unions and other left-of-center groups about his nomination, nor did Hewitt bring them up. These concerned labor violations committed by franchisees of CKE Restaurants; sexually provocative ads Puzder approved and defended for Carl’s Jr.; and Puzder’s opposition to raising the minimum wage even to $10.10
Puzder, whose confirmation hearings were repeatedly delayed due to complications in divesting himself of CKE assets, accused Democrats of going “full throttle” once they saw some Republicans wavering. He surmised that Democrats and unions opposed him because he was a successful businessman who could help President Donald Trump create jobs and economic growth.
“I don’t believe their concern was that I would be bad for workers. I think their concern was that I would pursue policies they opposed and that workers would benefit,” he suggested. “So the implications of that for the left would really have been devastating.”
More jobs and a growing economy, Puzder added, would force more competition among employers for workers, increasing wages and benefits. He argued, however, that unions and “big government progressives” didn’t want to see those benefits “because it would confirm that no matter what the mainstream media’s been telling working and middle-class Americans, pro-growth economic policies are in fact in their best interest, and big government’s not.”
“So that’s a message unions, progressives and Democrats don’t want out there,” he said. “So for years, I’ve been effectively on your show and others making the case as to why government regulations kill jobs and would have, and I would have done so as secretary of labor, which is why I think the left opposed me and engaged in this enormous campaign to wear down my support.”