Andy Puzder withdraws nomination for labour secretary

Donald Trump (L) and Andy Puzder in 19 November 2016Image copyright

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Andrew Puzder (R) is the first of Mr Trump’s cabinet picks to fail to secure a nomination

US President Donald Trump’s choice for labour secretary has withdrawn from consideration on the eve of a long-delayed confirmation hearing.

Andrew Puzder lost the support of several Republican senators after he admitted employing an illegal immigrant as a former housekeeper.

The fast-food billionaire had been criticised for his remarks on women and employees at his restaurants.

He was the first Trump cabinet pick to fail to secure a nomination.

The fallout from Mr Puzder’s rancorous 1980s divorce had also returned to dog him.

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It recently emerged that his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, appeared in disguise as a victim of domestic violence in a 1990 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, titled High Class Battered Women.

They split in 1987, but she later dropped the abuse claims in a child custody agreement.

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Advocates of a higher minimum wage protested outside the Hardee’s headquarters earlier this week

In an 18 January letter to the Senate committee that had been due to hold Mr Puzder’s confirmation hearing, Ms Fierstein said: “Andy is not and was not abusive or violent.”

But Susan Collins, one of several Republican senators who withheld support for Mr Puzder, said she was taking the talk show tape into consideration.

The Maine politician told reporters on Monday: “I have gone to view the Oprah Winfrey show for an hour on which his former wife appeared and I am reviewing the other information that has come to light.”

The clip was presented last month to members of the Senate panel.

The CKE Restaurants chief executive’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, overtime laws and break-time for workers had also drawn the ire of union groups.

Media captionThe BBC met a low-paid fast-food worker in New York who says he is barely scraping by

Some of his staff at burger chains such as Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s claimed they were victims of wage theft or sexual harassment in the workplace.

Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott said he had voiced reluctance to the Republican leadership to back Mr Puzder.

“As revelations regarding paying employees in cash, illegal immigration, and comments regarding some of the American workforce came to light, I developed serious concerns regarding his nomination,” he said.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO union, argued Mr Puzder would not have protected employees against his own industry.

“How can he possibly go out and defend workers?” he said.

Mr Puzder was also criticised for racy commercials that featured bikini models gorging on fast food.

Defending the strategy, he argued in a 2011 press release: “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.”

But perhaps most damagingly, he had admitted failing to pay taxes on an undocumented housekeeper who worked for him for up to five years.

He later repaid back-taxes after being nominated by Mr Trump.

“I fully support the president and his highly qualified team,” said Mr Puzder in a statement on Wednesday as he confirmed his withdrawal.