Oprah gives tape with Puzder abuse allegations to Senate
02/13/17 03:56 PM EST
Senators in both parties have viewed an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in which President Donald Trump's Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder's former wife leveled allegations of physical abuse against him, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The decades-old video, which is not easily found, has been provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network, those sources said. The video has been provided to senators in a Capitol Hill office building, according to people who have seen it. OWN did not immediately comment for this story.
"I’ve arranged for senators on the committee to see that ... I thought that was a reasonable request. No reason not to see it," said Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). "That happened 27 years ago. 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. “
The episode is called "High-Class Battered Women," according to a source familiar with the matter. It aired in March, 1990.
Alexander said he supports Puzder's nomination. But Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the HELP Committee that will vote on Puzder's nomination, said she was "deeply troubled" by the video.
"It was important for us to know all of the information about any candidate that comes before us," Murray said in an interview.
Last month POLITICO reported that Puzder's former wife, Lisa Fierstein, appeared in disguise on Oprah to discuss her abuse allegations, which she has since retracted, most recently in a letter to the Senate HELP Committee. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has reviewed the episode, as well.
Collins is among at least four GOP senators undecided on Puzder, whose confirmation hearing has been scheduled for Thursday. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina are also not decided on his nomination. All serve on the HELP Committee. Puzder can only lose two GOP votes if all Democrats oppose his nomination on the Senate floor. It could take just one GOP defection to tag his nomination as "unfavorable" in a committee vote, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring the nomination to the floor.
The abuse allegations are only one of the controversies dogging Puzder. His nomination was rocked last week after his spokesman said he had employed an undocumented immigrant for years. The fast-food executive also apprenticed to a Mafia-connected lawyer early in his career, drew criticism for conditions for workers at his CKE restaurant chain and faced accusations of sexism over advertisements showing bikini-clad women eating his company's hamburgers.
Scott bristled at reports that indicated he opposed Puzder. Still, he said it was "concerning" that it took Puzder five years to pay back taxes on the undocumented immigrant who once worked for him.
"I have not come out with a position," Scott said. "I've never said I was opposed to him, at all."
Collins did not say whether the video swayed her. The Maine senator also said she'd inquired about making the video public but was told it was merely being provided so senators could come to their own decisions.
"I was told that it's owned by the Oprah Network and they will not share it. I couldn't even have my staff view it," she said.
Not all senators on the HELP Committee have seen it. Both Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine of Virginia said they had not.
GOP leaders said that they were confident Puzder would prevail regardless of the swirl of controversy around him. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has called on Trump to withdraw Puzder's nomination, which is now Democrats' top target as Republican leaders fight to get their 52-member caucus behind him.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the nomination was "all good."