Andy Puzder abruptly withdraws as labor secretary nominee

Andy Puzder, President Trump’s embattled nominee for secretary of labor, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder said in a statement on Wednesday. “I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity. I want to thank President Trump for his nomination.

“I also thank my family and my many supporters — employees, businesses, friends and people who have voiced their praise and hopeful optimism for the policies and new thinking I would have brought to America as Secretary of Labor,” he added. “While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the president and his highly qualified team.”

Puzder’s withdrawal comes a day before his Senate confirmation hearing was set to begin.

Earlier Wednesday, multiple reports surfaced that GOP officials had advised the White House that Puzder — chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains — lacked the votes needed for confirmation.

A top Republican official told CNN that at least four GOP senators would definitely vote against Puzder’s confirmation. The Washington Post reported that number to be at least seven.

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Puzder’s nomination faced a series of hurdles that resulted in the most Republican resistance to date of Trump’s Cabinet picks. Among other things, Puzder’s ex-wife reportedly leveled abuse allegations in 1990 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and he admitted to employing an undocumented worker.

According to Politico, Lisa Fierstein, Puzder’s ex-wife, said on the show that he told her, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.”

During the episode, entitled “High Class Battered Women,” Fierstein appeared alongside other alleged victims of abuse in disguise, wearing large sunglasses and a wig and using an assumed name. Fierstein later retracted her allegations of battery as part of a child custody agreement.

A spokesman for Puzder dismissed the release of the “Oprah” tape as an attempt to smear him.

“[Puzder and Fierstein] are close friends today and often spend time together, but none of that context seems to matter to Andy’s critics,” the spokesman said in a statement to Politico. “Perpetuating these retracted 30-year-old allegations and an impulsive decision to appear on a talk show is nothing more than a desperate attempt to tarnish Andy Puzder at the expense of Lisa and their family.”

Puzder departs after a meeting with Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Andy Puzder departs after a meeting with President-elect Trump in November. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Also on Wednesday, the conservative magazine National Review came out against Puzder’s nomination, arguing that Puzder’s pro-immigration views made him unacceptable.

“We have our disagreements with President Trump’s economics, but the emphasis on the interests of lower-income workers who are in competition with immigrant labor is important,” the magazine’s editors said. “Trump should find a labor secretary who agrees with it and can be trusted to try to vigorously effect policies reflecting it.”

Even before Puzder’s withdrawal was formally announced, progressives celebrated the decision.

“The simple truth is that given his relationship to employees at the companies he runs, he was not fit to lead a department responsible for defending workers’ rights,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. “We need a secretary of labor who is going to fight to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and pay equity for women. We don’t need a labor secretary who makes millions while his workers are paid starvation wages.”

“Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal from consideration as Labor Secretary is a major victory for the resistance,” Greenpeace USA spokesperson Travis Nichols said. “Puzder was not on the side of the American people and would have been disastrous for workers in the United States. He opposed sensible protections for workers, such as providing affordable health care, overtime benefits and a livable minimum wage, while consistently showing he will sacrifice workers for corporate profits.”

“Victory!” tweeted actor and activist George Takei.

“This fight wasn’t just about Andy Puzder and his record of mistreating workers and shocking personal history — it was a repudiation of the anti-worker policies championed by the Trump Administration,” Karl Frisch, executive director for Allied Progress, said in a statement. “The ball is now in the court of President Trump and Senate Republicans to put forward a nominee that will fight to expand rights and opportunities for all Americans rather than working overtime to undermine them and pad the bottom lines of Wall Street special interests.”

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