8 reasons Andrew Puzder's nomination flamed out

Andrew Puzder in 60 seconds
Andrew Puzder in 60 seconds

Andrew Puzder's withdrawal as President Trump's Labor secretary nominee came after he faced a torrent of criticism for more than two months.

The CEO of CKE Restaurants, which runs Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food chains, had current and former employees speak out against him since he was nominated on Dec. 8. At the same time, Democrats and labor rights activists pounded his record on worker rights. The fast food exec has a long history of fighting against government regulation, a $15 minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act.

Puzder's committee hearing was pushed back four times. It was finally set for Thursday, but on Wednesday he formally withdrew his nomination.

Perhaps that's not surprising given the long list of troublesome revelations that emerged following Puzder's appointment.

1. Abuse allegations

Decades ago, Puzder's ex-wife levied charges of domestic abuse against him, which she later dropped. She also appeared in disguise on Oprah Winfrey's TV show to talk about domestic violence.

In a letter to senators obtained by CNN, Lisa Fierstein said she regrets accusing Puzder of abuse amid a rocky marriage. She claims she received bad advice from an attorney when she pressed charges in the 1980s, and said she was encouraged to go on Winfrey's show by her friends and liked the notion of a free trip to Chicago.

Senators weighing Puzder's nomination privately reviewed the 1990 Oprah tape. During the episode, Fierstein said Puzder told her, "I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this," according to Politico, which has reported details of the video.

Puzder has denied he was abusive to his wife.

2. Financial entanglements

For weeks, senators were missing Puzder's plan to avoid any financial conflicts of interest, as well as his committee questionnaire, which asks for financial information and personal history.

The documents finally came in. But his extensive financial holdings complicated the confirmation process.

If confirmed, Puzder had promised to step down as CEO of CKE Restaurants, and planned to divest holdings in more than 200 companies and funds within 90 days. He did not opt for a blind trust, which would have required him to sell his assets and let an independent manager reinvest the proceeds.

3. An undocumented housekeeper

Puzder conceded to employing an undocumented immigrant. Similar admissions sank cabinet nominees in the past.

"My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the US," Puzder said in a statement. "When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status."

Puzder said he and his wife already paid back taxes on the employee.

Linda Chavez, George W. Bush's choice for labor secretary, withdrew her nomination after it was discovered she allowed a Guatemalan woman in the United States illegally to live in her home. And Zoe Baird, Bill Clinton's attorney general appointee, dropped out after revelations she'd employed two undocumented immigrants from Peru -- a scandal that became known as "Nannygate."

4. Worker complaints filed

Puzder's own employees were some of the first to cry foul when he was nominated.

"If Andy Puzder can't be trusted to pay his workers what they've earned, why should we expect him to enforce laws meant to protect working Americans?" said Angel Gallegos, a Carl's Jr. cook in Los Angeles, in a statement in January.

Last month, current and former workers at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. announced that they filed 33 state and federal complaints against their employers. Charges include wage theft, manipulated overtime, sexual harassment and unfair labor practices.

All complaints pertain to franchised locations that are independently operated. But the workers said they reflect poorly on a chief executive who hopes to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. A spokesman for CKE Restaurants said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Fight for $15, an organization that's advocated for minimum wage hikes in several cities and states, also coordinated two rounds of protests against Puzder outside of CKE restaurants and local Department of Labor offices in January.

5. He disses his employees

Likewise, Puzder doesn't seem to think highly of his own employees, and publicly made some disparaging remarks about them, according to reporting from CNN's KFile.

"In fast food, you sort of compete for the best of the worst," Puzder said in a speech to California State University. "In other words, you're not getting the Microsoft guys. At Hardee's we were getting the worst of the worst. Nobody wanted to work at Hardee's."

Puzder also came under fire for past statements he's made in support of replacing workers with robots.

"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder told Business Insider in March 2016.

6. He's skeptical about the official U.S. unemployment rate

Economists are worried the Trump administration won't trust its own jobs numbers. Puzder wouldn't have helped matters.

Since 2012, Puzder has written or co-written a number of opinion pieces blasting how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the national unemployment rate. One article that ran in the National Review was headlined "Fire the BLS's Unemployment Rate."

Economists have said efforts to delegitimize the unemployment rate are bad news. While no single metric is perfect, they say, the official unemployment rate should be trusted.

"I think it's very, very dangerous. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does an excellent job," said Bill Rodgers, a professor at Rutgers' Center for Workforce Development and chief economist for the Labor Department from 2000 to 2001.

7. Racy ads

Under Puzder, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. became known for suggestive ads featuring scantily-clad women. Many commercials -- such as a 2015 Super Bowl ad featuring a seemingly nude Charlotte McKinney -- have been criticized as sexist and offensive.

Puzder said he doesn't see the issue.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with a beautiful woman in a bikini, eating a burger and washing a Bentley or a pickup truck or being in a hot tub," Puzder told CNNMoney in 2015. "I think there's probably nothing more American."

8. Policies at odds with Trump's

Puzder's own criticism of Trump -- and economic policies Trump later adopted -- could have come back to haunt him.

Before Trump became the GOP nominee, Puzder warned that outsider candidates like Trump could cause Republicans to throw the general election, and called his positions "fringe," CNN's KFile reported.

"We're not going to win this election if we're the bigoted, anti-woman, anti-immigrant party," he said on the Fox Business network in October 2015.

Puzder has also opposed short-term government incentives for businesses and infrastructure spending to create jobs. Both are tenets of Trump's economic plan.

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