On Wednesday, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder had no choice but to withdraw his nomination to be labor secretary as Republican senators turned against him. Puzder’s withdrawal was a victory for Democrats, unions and liberal groups that had been attacking his business record and character since he was chosen by Trump in December.
Democrats cheered Mr. Puzder’s withdrawal as a victory for working Americans. Generally seen as an advocate for workers, the Labor Department regulates workplace safety, enforces wage and hour laws, maintains unemployment and payroll data. As the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains, Puzder ardently opposed the Affordable Care Act, cast a skeptical eye on minimum wage and overtime rules, and pledged an assault on regulations that he said in his withdrawal statement would “put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”
He came under intense criticism from Democrats and liberal groups that accused him of mistreating his workers and supporting automation in the workplace. To make matters worse, there has been intense scrutiny of his personal life. Conservative publications, such as National Review and Breitbart, had also expressed resistance, zeroing in on Mr. Puzder’s employment of an undocumented immigrant as his housekeeper.
And records from his 1988 divorce, disseminated Tuesday night by opponents, resurfaced spousal abuse accusations that made some Republican senators uncomfortable. His ex-wife had recanted those accusations, but senators from both parties privately screened a videotape from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that featured her laying out the charges while dressed in disguise.
Some of his critics also cast him as sexist, denouncing fast-food advertisements he championed that featured bikini-clad women eating monstrous hamburgers.
George Thompson, a spokesman for Mr. Puzder, said his treatment had been “an unprecedented smear campaign.”
In a statement, Mr. Puzder thanked President Trump and those who supported him for their optimism about the “policies and new thinking” he would have brought to the job.
“The simple truth is that, given his relationship to employees at the companies he runs, he was not fit to lead a department responsible for defending workers’ rights,” said Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, called on President Trump to nominate someone who supported the rights of workers rather than suppressed them.
“Puzder should never have even been nominated to lead the Labor Department, and Senate Republicans clearly recognized this, too,” Schumer said. “The fact that someone so anti-labor was even nominated shows how far President Trump is from where he campaigned.”