Democrats prepare to hit Labor pick over Carl's Jr. ads, comments about women

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(CNN)Democratic senators who sit on the committee that will oversee would-be Labor Secretary Andy Puzder's confirmation hearing plan to drag the fast food CEO through a ringer of comments he's made about women, hoping the comments will give Republicans pause -- or at least put them in a tough spot.

Democrats have already set their sights on the CKE Restaurants CEO as a top target for the upcoming confirmation battles on Capitol Hill, pointing to labor violations involving CKE's Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants and Puzder's opposition to increasing the minimum wage.
But now they are preparing to go after Puzder by pointing to his comments about women and the racy Carl's Jr. ads he's defended, a Senate Democratic aide told CNN on Wednesday.
The aide said Democrats hope the line of questioning will draw attention to Puzder's character, while also putting Republicans on the spot.
Puzder has frequently defended Carl's Jr. ads featuring bikini-clad models, calling them the core of the restaurant's philosophy, and has said he avoids the sets of those ad shoots because he is "happily married and would like to stay that way."
When Carl's Jr. released an ad proclaiming it believed in "putting hot models in our commercials because ugly ones don't sell burgers," Puzder called the ad "the core of what we believe."
"It is not a reinvention of the brands; instead, it is an evolution that refines the core of what we believe," Puzder said in a 2011 press release announcing the company's ad, "Anthem."
And in 2013, he said he avoids the sets of Carl's Jr. ads featuring bikini clad models, saying he has a "very good marriage" and wants to "keep it preserved."
"It certainly raises questions for Democrats that the nominee for Department of Labor would not only advocate for harmful stereotypes about women, but go so far as to say they are at the core of his company's values?" the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share the Democrats' strategy, said. "And given the role that the secretary of labor plays in standing up for women's rights at work, Republicans should be concerned as well."
The Trump transition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats may also seek to tie Puzder's comments to President-elect Donald Trump's numerous controversial and sexually aggressive comments about women. A Democratic aide said Democrats are eager to see how Republicans react to Puzder's past comments given their criticism of Trump's comments.
A half-dozen Republicans on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions forcefully criticized Trump over the comments recorded by a hot mic in 2005.
But Trump's comments -- in which he bragged about being able to sexually assault women because of his celebrity status -- went much further than anything Puzder has said publicly. Other comments from Trump, including those on Howard Stern's radio show where he rated women on a scale of 1 to 10 and talked about sexual acts he's engaged in, did not draw similar outrage from most Republicans.
And even still, only one Republican currently sitting on the committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would not vote for Trump after the 2005 tape surfaced.
Others, including Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and even the committee's chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander called Trump's comments everything from "unacceptable" to "disgusting," but did not pull their support of the Republican nominee.