At the beginning of this week, fast food executive Andrew Puzder looked firmly on track to become Labor Secretary for the Trump administration.
Nominated by Donald Trump on Dec. 8, he had weathered criticism from Democrats on issues ranging from the minimum wage to his hiring of an undocumented domestic worker. But Republicans largely defended him, and it seemed likely he’d be confirmed by the Senate, like all of Trump’s prior cabinet nominees.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, Pudzer — CEO of the CKE Restaurants fast-food chain, owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. — withdrew his name from consideration.
What happened? By all appearances, it seems Oprah happened.
OWN did not respond to a request for comment.
In the 1990 episode, wearing an elaborate disguise, Fierstein detailed physical abuse she said Puzder inflicted on her during their marriage.
Soon after the report, the video itself was leaked online. In it, Fierstein tells Winfrey that she had been threatened by Puzder for going public with her allegations during their divorce. “I will see you in the gutter,” she claimed Puzder said to her.
Things got worse, ironically, on Tuesday when a Missouri circuit court unsealed portions of the couple’s divorce proceedings, backing the “Oprah” revelations by showing that Fierstein had accused Puzder of “striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders and neck.” In addition, according to US News and World Reports, Fierstein said Puzder “inflicted serious bodily harm.”
Fierstein later recanted her accusations, and has defended Puzder’s nomination.
“I regret my decision to appear on the show… I was hesitant but encouraged by friends and became caught up in the notion of a free trip to Chicago and being a champion of women and women’s issues,” she said in a statement.
Some Republicans initially issued statements dismissing the abuse allegations as a smear against Puzder. But Wednesday morning, Fox News and CBS News, among others, reported that a group of Senate Republicans had requested the Trump administration withdraw Puzder from consideration for the position.
By 2:30 p.m. ET, he was done.
In his statement on the matter, Puzder didn’t address the allegations or explain his reasons for withdrawing his name from consideration. Senate Republicans who have spoken to the news media, such as Tim Scott of South Carolina, have not mentioned allegations of abuse, citing only concerns about his business practices and the aforementioned hiring of an undocumented worker.
By itself, the decades-old allegations probably weren’t enough to derail Puzder’s hopes, especially as his ex-wife herself has recanted them. But the timing suggests the involvement of OWN in disseminating those allegations proved the tipping point that gave just enough wavering Republicans the excuse they needed to pull their support.
Perhaps Oprah should add a video component to her famous book club.