The XX Factor

Andrew Puzder’s Ex-Wife on Oprah in 1990: His Physical Abuse Caused Permanent Damage

Union members and activists protest Andrew Puzder’s nomination in front of Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Doral, Florida, on Feb. 9.

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The ex-wife of Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor, appeared in disguise on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1990 and said the Carl’s Jr. CEO “vowed revenge” after she accused him of domestic abuse.

On a panel of what the show called “high-class battered women,” Lisa Fierstein said Puzder was “too smart” to “leave marks” or “hit you in front of everyone.” “The damage that I sustained, you can’t see. It’s permanent,” she said. Puzder’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

In January, Politico reported that Fierstein had appeared on Oprah to discuss Puzder’s alleged abuse. It obtained footage of the episode from Charlotte Fedders, who joined Fierstein on the 1990 panel, on Tuesday. Appearing in the clip under a pseudonym, Fierstein says Puzder threatened, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this,” after she went public with her allegations.

Fierstein later retracted her claims of Puzder’s brutal violence during negotiations over a child custody agreement reached in the months after her Oprah appearance. Since accusing Puzder of beating her to the point of bruising and ruptured discs in the late ’80s, Fierstein has claimed that she made those allegations only to get a leg up in divorce negotiations, as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote in January:

The story of the accusations is somewhat convoluted, as Fierstein now says that she invented the two alleged incidents of physical abuse in question, which were said to have taken place in 1985 and 1986, after “impulsively” filing for divorce and being “counseled then to file an allegation of abuse.” But reporting from the time indicates that police responded to the couple’s home during the 1986 incident, which took place in May, before Fierstein filed for divorce. Court documents posted by Politico also indicate that Fierstein formally filed a claim of abuse before filing for divorce.

Puzder is just one of at least four top Trump figures who have been accused of physically assaulting women. His history reveals little respect for women’s autonomy and dignity: He volunteered his time defending anti-abortion activists who would physically prevent patients from entering health clinics, and he has said the shameless Carl’s Jr. commercials of women’s wobbling, naked flesh are a good reflection of his “personality.” On Thursday, voters will learn how much of a fight their senators are willing to put up to avoid sending another devotee of misogynist ideology to the top tier of the federal government.