It looks like Donald Trump has selected a miniature version of himself as his secretary of labor, at least as far as women in bikinis are concerned. Andrew Puzder, the fast food CEO who heads the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, has said the infamous Carl’s Jr. commercials that show greased-up women in bikinis touching one another are a reflection of his “personality.”
The company has courted scandal with its hamburger advertisements since at least 2005, when it released a spot featuring Paris Hilton humping a luxury vehicle with soapsuds running down her exposed skin. In another memorable ad, three blond white women wearing less than bathing suits finger jars of bacon jam and dangle strips of meat into one another’s mouths. “It’s called a bacon three-way burger,” one says. “What did you expect?”
Fortune reports that, in a 2011 press release, Puzder defended his company’s sexist, uber-objectifying ads with the idea that his target market is “young, hungry guys.” “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers,” he said. “We target hungry guys, and we get young kids that want to be young hungry guys.”
In an interview with Entrepreneur last year, Trump’s pick to be secretary of labor used the same phrase—“young hungry guy”—so often, and in such weird ways, it starts to seem like code for “man who grabs women’s body parts” or “horny, desperate asshole.” “My son’s now 17, but when he was 13 he didn’t want to eat at ‘the king’ [or] ‘the clown,’ ” Puzder said, throwing shade at Burger King and McDonald’s. “He wanted to eat where his brother ate, so he wanted to be a young hungry guy.”
“I’m 64, I want to be a young hungry guy,” he told the female reporter. “Some young ladies in your age group like to date young hungry guys.” Puzder sounds like he shares a nasty old man playbook with Donald “in a couple of years, I’ll be dating you” Trump. Puzder also takes credit for discovering Kate Upton, the supermodel who was largely unknown when Carl’s Jr. cast her in a commercial because, the CEO said, “she was a really hot blonde.”
Trump is known for his belief that a woman’s value lies in his estimation of her fuckability. In a 1991 interview with Esquire, the president-elect said of the media, “It really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” Likewise, Puzder doesn’t care what people say about his ads or what message they may send to men about women—or to women about themselves—as long as he’s still making money. “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he told Entrepreneur. One survey found that 52 percent of the people who watched a particularly gross Carl’s Jr. commercial found it offensive, and 32 percent “felt worse about Carl’s Jr.,” compared with 8 percent who feel worse after watching the average fast-food ad. This widespread negative attention, and the boycotts and protests from groups that care about portrayals of women in media, was good for business, Puzder said: “Those complaints aren’t necessarily bad for us. What you look at is, you look at sales. And, our sales go up.”
Building a brand out of a worldview that limits women’s utility to their sex appeal is a method Trump trusts—no small part of the electorate that lifted him to victory was motivated by the visceral appeal of his sex talk and his misogynist attacks on Hillary Clinton, Alicia Machado, Megyn Kelly, and other women who got in Trump’s way. It’s easy to imagine Trump choosing Puzder for his Cabinet solely on the basis of last year’s Carl’s Jr. Tex-Mex burger commercial, which showed female volleyball players slapping each other’s butt cheeks, flesh wobbling in slow motion, as men salivate on the sidelines. It’s the U.S. versus Mexico in this match-up; there’s even a fence between the two sides! The women battle it out and squirt water down their fronts while men from the two countries build intercultural bonds over how great it is to watch women be hot.
“I used to hear brands take on the personality of the CEO, and I rarely thought that was true,” Puzder told Entrepreneur in 2015. “But I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.” If his personality turned a second-rate fast food chain into a masturbatory supply outlet that encourages dopey men to think of breasts and burgers in the same category, imagine what it’ll do for America’s workforce.