Thursday, December 8, 2016

Andrew Puzder, Trump's Pick for Labor Department, Was Accused of Abusing Wife

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 3:22 PM

click to enlarge Andrew Puzder, speaking at the 2016 FreedomFest in Las Vegas. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore
  • Andrew Puzder, speaking at the 2016 FreedomFest in Las Vegas.

Andrew Puzder, the St. Louis attorney who rose to become CEO of Carl's Jr. and now stands as Donald Trump's pick to be Secretary of Labor, was accused of abuse by his first wife in the 1980s — with police twice summoned to the couple's home.

The allegations were first aired in the couple's 1989 divorce. The abuse allegations in the divorce filings then became the subject of a July 26, 1989, Riverfront Times cover story.

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Puzder denied the abuse both in a deposition for his divorce and in the RFT's story, calling his ex-wife Lisa Henning's allegations "baseless."

"There was no physical abuse at any point in time," he told the RFT.

In her divorce filing, Henning alleged that Puzder hit her, threw her to the floor and unplugged the phone after she tried to call the police for her help. Puzder would later acknowledge in a deposition that he "grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back," but said he did it to stop her from hurting herself.

The divorce filing also detailed two other incidents: One in the late '70s in which the neighbors called the police after a shouting match turned into a plate-throwing fight, and one in which Lisa Henning alleged that Puzder punched her in 1985 while they were driving in a car. Questioned about the incident in a deposition for the divorce case, Puzder said that he had not punched his wife, but acknowledged driving onto the curb: "I think it had to do with the liquid refreshment we had with our dinner more than anything else."

But in a recent email to her ex-husband, Henning — who has since remarried and now goes by a different last name — walked back her claims of abuse.

The email was provided to the RFT by a spokesman for Andrew Puzder this afternoon, soon after this story was initially published.

Dated November 30, 2016, the email references time the couple spent together with their children on Thanksgiving. In it, Henning states flatly, "You were not abusive."

She writes,
You know how deeply I regret many of the rash decisions I made at that time and I sincerely hope that none of those decisions will become an issue for you at this time. I impulsively filed for a divorce without your knowledge and was counseled then to file an allegation of abuse. I regretted and still regret that decision and I withdrew those allegations over thirty years ago. You were not abusive.

I will most definitely confirm to anyone who may ask that in no way was there abuse. We had a heated argument. We both said things to one another that we regret to this day. I have always been grateful that we have been able to forgive one another for the hurt we caused caused each other.
The email continues, "You and I resolved this long ago. We put it behind us and now enjoy what I consider to be a loving and respectful relationship. That is a testament to your integrity and grace. This would not have been possible if you had been a violent or abusive husband. You were not. I wish you always the best of luck in any and all of your endeavors. I know you would be an excellent addition to the Trump team."

At the time of the RFT's original story, Puzder was not associated with the Carl's Jr. chain. The Wash U law graduate was best-known as an anti-abortion crusader who'd authored the Missouri law imposing serious restrictions on using any state funds or facilities for abortion or related services. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in a landmark case, Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, not long before the RFT aired Henning's explosive claims.

Puzder was also serving as the chair of then-Governor John Ashcroft's Task Force for Mothers and Unborn Children. He offered to resign the post in light of the RFT story, according to a July 29, 1989 front page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I wouldn't want this to hurt the pro-life movement," he told the daily. "I wouldn't want this to hurt the task force, and, particularly, I don't want it to hurt my family."

Neither the original RFT story nor the Post-Dispatch follow-up is currently available online. Turn the page for the complete text of the 1989 story.

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Editor's note: We updated this story two hours after publication to include a more recent letter from Lisa Henning to her ex-husband.

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