Senate Reviews 'Oprah' Interview In Which Ex-Wife of Labor Secretary Nominee Claims He Abused Her
The Oprah Winfrey Network confirmed it provided approximately 20 episodes of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' about domestic violence to a Senate committee as part of its confidential investigation into a Cabinet nominee.
An episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show has come under review in the Senate as the confirmation hearing nears for Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder.
Puzder's former wife, Lisa Fierstein, appeared on an episode of Winfrey's show in disguise, according to Politico, in which she accused her ex-husband of physical abuse.
The Oprah Winfrey Network reportedly turned over the video of her appearance to senators, who will soon vote on Puzder's nomination. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr.
In a legal document obtained by Politico, Fierstein had claimed that her ex-husband had "assaulted and battered" her and she "suffered severe and permanent injuries" during their marriage. Her allegations first began to surface around the time of their divorce in the late 1980s and have resurfaced thanks to Puzder's nomination by President Trump.
Puzder has denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse, and Fierstein has since retracted the statements she made on the show. She has even sent a letter to senators saying she regrets making the allegations, CNN reports.
The allegations fueled opposition against Puzder, which is being led by women's rights groups, unions and other labor rights groups that worry about his views on regulations and the minimum wage. Puzder's confirmation has continuously been delayed, in part because of this opposition as well as the continuing hearings of Trump's other nominees.
Politico also reported that both Republican and Democratic senators, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), have viewed the episode, provided by Winfrey's OWN network, in which Puzder's ex-wife made allegations of physical abuse.
Politico claimed the episode featuring Fierstein, in a wig and glasses, identified by the made-up name Ann, is called "High-Class Battered Women" and aired in March of 1990.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who said he supports Puzder's nomination, told Politico of the Oprah episode. "I’ve arranged for senators on the committee to see that.... I thought that was a reasonable request. No reason not to see it. 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."
Meanwhile the top Democrat on the committee that will vote on Puzder's nomination, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), 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 added to Politico.
Collins didn't say whether the video swayed her but was told it couldn't be made available to a wider audience.
"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 the video, with Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine of Virginia saying they haven't.
In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Winfrey's OWN network said it made approximately 20 episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show about domestic violence available to the HELP committee as part of its confidential investigation into a Cabinet nominee. The network did not provide "information about the identities of anyone who appeared in these episodes."
The statement reads as follows: "As part of its confidential investigation of a nominee for a Cabinet position, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee asked OWN in January 2017 for episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show airing between 1985 and 1990 that dealt with the subject of domestic violence. Approximately 20 episodes were made available for the committee members to view in confidence. OWN did not provide copies or transcript of the episodes and has not provided information about the identities of anyone who appeared in these episodes. Given information of this investigation has been made public by the committee, OWN is making this statement to be clear about what the company provided to congressional investigators."
Feb. 14, 7:10 a.m. This story has been updated with more information about the Politico report and a statement from OWN.