Thursday, September 30, 2010

Background on Roll Call Expose of Linda McMahon’s Lie About Lobbying


Did Linda McMahon’s WWE Do No Federal Lobbying in 2009 — Or Just Not Report Any?“, January 19, 2010 —

K&L Gates: We Did No Washington Lobbying on Behalf of WWE in 2009,” January 20, 2010 —

No WWE Lobbying? Why, Rick Santorum Handled the Account!”, April 8, 2010,

‘Worse Than Minimum-Wage-Gate’: Linda McMahon Lied About Lobbying $$$

Roll Call just broke a huge new story on video of Linda McMahon telling a gathering of tea party supporters in Waterbury in April: “I have not spent lobbying dollars in Washington.”

The Roll Call report notes that disclosure records show that World Wrestling Entertainment, the company McMahon headed, spent at least $680,000 in Washington lobbying from 2001 through 2008.

McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said McMahon “probably could have been more precise.”

The Capitol Watch blog of the Hartford Courant commented on Twitter, “Roll Call story on McMahon’s lobbying statements could prove far more damaging than minimum wage-gate.”

The link to “McMahon Video Contradicts Lobbying Record” (full text available to subscribers only) is

NEXT: Full background from this blog’s coverage of WWE lobbying.

Irv Muchnick

Reviewing Today’s Developments: Linda McMahon Is Uninformed and Lame on the Minimum Wage, and She Calls WWE ‘A Small Business’

Nothing is inevitable – not one of the many deaths of wrestlers employed by Linda McMahon; nor her misspeaking on the Connecticut Senate campaign trail in a way that would get everyone’s attention.

But today was the day the latter finally happened.

A few hours ago I was chatting with a respected journalist on the ground there, and we both expressed amazement that this was all unfolding without McMahon’s opponent, Richard Blumenthal, lifting a finger.

“The dude should be holding a presser in front of some blue-collar diner at 5 p.m. today,” the journalist said.

Late today Blumenthal’s spokeswoman, Maura Downes, emailed a statement to Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant: “Linda McMahon laid off ten percent of her workers and takes home $46 million a year so it’s no surprise she’s thinking about lowering the minimum wage. Connecticut’s families are hurting and Linda McMahon puts her own profits ahead of people of Connecticut. That’s not the kind of U.S. Senator the people of Connecticut need.”

I don’t know if this defines the extent to which way Blumenthal intends to pounce, or if he’s letting the controversy build and simmer until he can confront McMahon directly at next Monday’s debate, or what. In a few days we’ll have a sense of whether the task of defeating the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut can any longer be entrusted to her opponent or to the Democratic Party.

The arc of today’s events, from my personal perspective of course, is captured on Twitter:

Why are the hardest-hitting Linda McMahon stories not getting play in Connecticut? —

More material for Connecticut media seeking “traction” on Linda McMahon’s death mill:

Richard Blumenthal has strong foundation for making Linda McMahon’s record as WWE’s CEO the focus of Monday’s debate:

Flap over her position on the minimum wage may prove to be a rare misstep by Linda McMahon, the ultra-disciplined corporate machine.

Linda McMahon, WWE ‘independent contractor’ death merchant, wobby on national minimum wage (good work by @thetrough):

“Linda McMahon weighs lowering minimum wage” — weighs in & McMahon spokesman spins like a top:

Thx, @ctcapitolreport, for Linda McMahon “WATCH” clip — but what world needs to see is her original statement, not just “walking it back”

Hartford Courant’s Rick Green: “Linda McMahon Steps In It. Her $$$taff Jumps Into Action” …

Linda McMahon “minimum wage” transcript proves she said what she meant and she meant what she said:

Hey, Linda McMahon, the “human bullet point” — Next time just say, “Discussion of minimum wage cuts belongs in the legislative arena.”

LINDA McMAHON: “WWE IS A SMALL BUSINESS.” See the link to the video at

Irv Muchnick


McMahon makes the remark around the 5:45 mark of this video:

Also in this news conference is the full exchange in which McMahon discusses her position on the minimum wage. Earlier links today at this blog report on and have the transcript of that portion.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon ‘Minimum Wage’ Transcript Proves She Said What She Meant and She Meant What She Said

Ted Mann of the New London Day has posted the full transcript of Linda McMahon’s original remarks about the minimum wage at a news conference. The link is

When asked by Mann, “... Would you argue for reducing the minimum wage now?”, McMahon said:

“We have got minimum wages in states, we have got minimum wages in the [federal] government, and I think we ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them. I think we should get input from our business community. We should listen to our small business operators and we should hear what it is they have to say and how it’s impacting their businesses and make some of those decisions.”

Connecticut Columnist: ‘Linda McMahon Steps In It. Her $$$taff Jumps Into Action’

From the blog of the Hartford Courant‘s Rick Green:

P.S.: Linda McMahon on the Minimum Wage

Ben Smith of weighs in. And Linda McMahon campaign spokesman Ed Patru spins like a top:

“McMahon weighs lowering minimum wage”

Linda McMahon, WWE ‘Independent Contractor’ Death Merchant, Is Wobbly on the National Minimum Wage

McMahon said she didn’t know if anyone at World Wrestling Entertainment, the company of which she was CEO until her campaign began, is paid the minimum wage. And the candidate would not say whether she believes Connecticut’s minimum wage — $8.25 per hour — was too high, or onerous on state businesses.

“You know, guys,” she said, “I’m just not going to comment anymore on that.”

“McMahon: Congress should consider lowering minimum wage”

by Ted Mann

Richard Blumenthal Has a Strong Foundation for Making Linda McMahon’s Record as WWE’s Chief Executive the Focus of Monday’s Debate

It’s going to take an electronic crowbar, but I’m trying mightily to extract the politicos’ heads from their asses for just a second here.

In their usual way of promoting superficiality and frivolousness as supreme values – all the while pretending to bemoan the superficiality and frivolousness that have overtaken our world – the mainstream media have made their Connecticut Senate narrative du jour the despair or panic in the Richard Blumenthal camp in the face of Linda McMahon’s seeming dead heat in the latest polling.

That is no more accurate or fair than it would be to write that Blumenthal has conducted a good campaign to date.

The truth is that for all his negative momentum, Blumenthal still has plenty of time to introduce Connecticut voters to the real Linda Edwards McMahon, a merchant of death of such callousness as to almost defy belief.

I don’t blame newcomers to the history of World Wrestling Entertainment for taking a while to wrap their minds around this sordid tale. But the debate next Monday in Hartford marks the start of a new season, and Blumenthal has plenty of “Raw” material to work with – whether the so-called smart set realizes it or not.

In his under-noticed blog post today, the hardworking Brian Lockhart of Hearst gives the full treatment to the endorsement of McMahon by the National Federation of Independent Business. See “Linda McMahon scores backing of biz group,”

It’s all there: WWE’s record on health care ... the state investigation of its independent contractor chicanery ... all tied together by the sort of nugget that makes wonks swoon – this business group’s rather funky position on lowering or eliminating the minimum wage.

If he plays it smart, Blumenthal still will have every opportunity to frame the debate in ways that put McMahon on the spot. And he can do so without sacrificing his own dignity, which seems to be an inordinately high priority for Harvard undergrad/Yale Law people.

Meanwhile, as the echo chamber reverberates with nonsense like how one of Linda’s stupid TV commercials landed on Gawker’s weirdo list, there were two new solid pieces published today, outside Connecticut, on Linda McMahon’s accountability for the body count in her company and industry. Will outlets within the state add value to the public’s education on this between now and Monday night? Or will they hide behind “been there, done that”?

Irv Muchnick

More Material for Connecticut Media Seeking ‘Traction’ on Linda McMahon’s WWE Death Mill

“Linda McMahon’s Body Count”

by Dave Zirin

Why Are the Hardest-Hitting Linda McMahon Stories Not Getting Play in Connecticut?

This one isn’t quite “The ‘Oh Yeah’ Girls Make the Gawker List,” but it’s loaded with important information:

“Linda McMahon, wrestllers’ deaths and head injuries”

by Evan Weiner

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

P.S. on Mick Foley’s Position on Wrestlers as Independent Contractors

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter expressed surprise at the previous item on this blog, in which I cited wrestler Mick Foley as having defended World Wrestling Entertainment’s position on its performers as independent contractors rather than employees (“Linda McMahon’s Unstoppable Political Machine Extends All the Way to Mankind and Doink,”

Meltzer said that while he would have expected such a statement from Glenn “Kane” Jacobs, a well-known outspoken libertarian, it would mark a dramatic pivot from Foley’s own previous utterances on the subject. Meltzer asked me to produce the quote.

That got a little complicated. On September 9, in my post “In Response to Mick Foley on the Media on Linda McMahon,”, I linked to a post at Foley’s own blog, “Whatever Happened to Research?”,, in which he complained about coverage of the Linda McMahon campaign. But Foley’s item is no longer there; he must have erased it for some reason.

Someone better than I at these things was able to dig up the passage about wrestlers as independent contractors:

“At one point in my conversation with Mr. Stannard, I mentioned that the issue of independent contractor status was more complicated than it might seem, and that he might, for example have trouble convincing John Cena to give up his quarterly royalty check in return for employer paid health care benefits.”

Once Meltzer was shown the quote (by which Foley arguably curried favor with the McMahons, who returned the favor by plugging his new book on Raw this Monday), Dave and I agreed that Mick’s logic on this issue seemed seriously flawed.

“What does a merchandising royalty check have to do with employee standing? NBA players get royalty checks and are not independent contractors,” Meltzer noted.

What Foley might have meant to say is that it is difficult to get wrestlers organized effectively to demand reforms – with respect to employee status or anything else – because the top guys at any given moment, such as John Cena, are at least temporarily making very big bucks, are complete company men, and therefore doom any movement toward unionizing the talent.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon’s Unstoppable Political Machine Extends All the Way to Mankind and Doink the Clown

Two incidents inside the wrestling industry in recent weeks show both how close is the coordination of the Linda McMahon Senate campaign with her company, World Wrestling Entertainment, and how thorough is the attention to detail by both.

As is often the case these days with inside-inside news, I am indebted to wrestling fan and journalist David Bixenspan for much of the following information.

On the Raw telecast this Monday on USA cable, the announcer plugged a new book by Mick Foley, the wrestler who also has authored multiple bestsellers. Foley had a famous and successful run with WWE – as himself and as his alter egos “Cactus Jack,” “Mankind,” and “Dude Love” – but he now works for a rival promotion, TNA.

Plugs for opposition talent don’t happen by accident. In all likelihood, Linda’s husband, Vince McMahon, the potentate of WWE, ordered the Foley book valentine as a quid pro quo for Mick’s recent defense of Linda’s political candidacy on his blog and in media interviews. Today the McMahon campaign, fighting off a new line of accusations emanating from the Richard Blumenthal camp about WWE’s independent contractor abuse, is holding up the silly Foley line that grossly exploited company employees “prefer it that way.”

An even funnier story involves journeyman wrestler Matt Borne, a second-generation craftsman whose biggest claim to fame was that he was the original WWE incarnation of the character “Doink the Clown.” (The most recent Doink on TV was none other than Nick Dinsmore – the guy who years ago played the retarded character, “Eugene,” in one the original useless flurries of WWE YouTube clips by the anti-Linda crowd.)

Borne, like Foley, has been a media go-to guy for spoon-fed lines about how the McMahons do everything in their power even for those performers who, alas, make poor personal choices. (Borne himself went through WWE-sponsored drug rehab.)

For Borne, the reward was a recent WWE tryout camp held at his wrestling school in Freehold, New Jersey. John Laurinaitis, the head of WWE talent relations, and one of his assistants, Ty Bailey, did the scouting. Borne’s charges paid a stiff registration fee for the privilege of showing their stuff to industry movers and shakers, and Borne pocketed most of the dough for a nice payday. Funny, but before this month not many people had even heard of the Matt Borne Wrestling Academy.

What makes the timing even more suspicious, Bixenspan tells me, is that these tryout camps are usually staged at the training center of a current or former WWE regional “developmental” promotion. Or, if not there, at a wrestling school with historic WWE ties, such as that of Afa Anoia, the “Wild Samoan” in Pennsylvania (and an uncle of recently deceased wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu).

I tell ya, the Society of St. Tammany has nothing on the pro wrestling fraternity.

Irv Muchnick

Highly Recommended Reading on Concussions in Mixed Martial Arts

“Why I have chosen to stop watching Mixed Martial Arts, my favorite sport – the mounting evidence of CTE from head trauma”

by Ivan Trembow

MMA Torch

NY Times: ‘Wrestling Becomes a Campaign Issue’; CT Capitol Report on NY Times: ‘Voters Not Responding to Wrestling Attacks’

We have cognitive dissonance here. Or, as the gang warden in Cool Hand Luke put it, “a failure to communicate.”

Today the worthy Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent has a “Letter from Connecticut” in The New York Times headlined “As a Senate Race Tightens, Wrestling Becomes a Campaign Issue.” See

Bass says right there, high up in his story, that Linda McMahon’s record at World Wrestling Entertainment now “will be part of Richard Blumenthal’s closing argument.” Sounds good to me.

But in the link at the mischievous Connecticut Capitol Report, Tom Dudchik highlights the questions raised at the bottom of the Bass piece, talking about how the YouTube of Linda racking WWE announcer Jim Ross hasn’t worked.

So, once more with feeling, folks: It’s the deaths, stupid.

Blumenthal spokesman Maura Downes specifically and accurately tells Bass, “It is especially important to us what happens outside the ring … how she treated her workers.” The article goes on to cite “concussions and premature deaths among WWE wrestlers, steroid use, and the company’s reliance on hundreds of independent contractors who do not receive health care benefits.”

One more thing, Dudchik: Please find yourself a new stock wrestling photo for these links. I don’t even recognize who is preparing to plant his knees in the gut of the guy mistiming a diving splash.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick on Brian Lockhart on ‘Teflon Linda’ McMahon

The thoughtful Brian Lockhart of Hearst reflects on the Linda McMahon surge in the polls – boomlet or historic boom? – in a blog headlined “Teflon Linda,”

There is little to dispute about Lockhart’s review of the campaign to date. He gets especially high marks for listing the bullets of McMahon’s negatives in more or less the right order. I’m not sure living in a gated community and having a yacht called Sexy Bitch belongs at the top of the list – but the point is that the list as a whole involves mostly real McMahon scandals that have gotten scant play or, in the copout line, “failed to gain traction.”

However, Lockhart’s quotes at the end from analyst Ben Davol miss the mark, in my view.

Davol is correct in observing that the McMahon campaign anticipated anti-World Wrestling Entertainment sentiment and easily turned it to Linda’s populist advantage. But Davol is wrong is lumping every negative together under the category of attacks on a popular entertainment that were destined to backfire.

I see the flaw in the tactics of McMahon’s opponents – first Rob Simmons in the Republican primary and now Richard Blumenthal in the general election – a little differently. I think they played into the trap of defining these controversies in terms of values: raunchiness or degradation of women or the retarded. As soon as they targeted the content of the programming rather than the management practices and borderline-criminal activities of this mega-profitable corporation, they lost.

Since there’s no scientific control on any of this, I can’t prove that focusing from the get-go on death, occupational health and safety, independent contractor abuse, and obstruction or manipulation of government investigations would have been more successful. Maybe, at bottom, people truly don’t care about the unbelievable death toll of pro wrestlers, or they even think these things are funny, the same as a YouTube clip of a kick in the nuts. The fact that high-paid consultants for McMahon’s opponents, who had the most to gain from making the right call on this, went with the kitchen-sink approach to Linda negatives may suggest that I’m the one who’s wrong.

But I don’t think so. Vice plays counterintuitively in politics, but it plays. Let’s do the analogy game. If Linda McMahon ran a prostitution ring, the public (those who patronize prostitutes or who simply accept it as a fact of life) might not be drawn to stories of women who were beaten by pimps or otherwise abused and devalued. But scrutiny of how this sausage of popular entertainment got made in the sausage factory would not lead to a backlash of sympathy for the owner; it would still lead to a diminished inclination to vote for her.

Anyway, whether Davol is right or I am, we’re surely about to see some kind of reboot of Blumenthal strategy in the wake of poll numbers. It will be interesting to see what form that takes.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick’s Free Lesson to Richard Blumenthal on How to Cut a ‘Heel Wrestling Promo’

Buoyed by the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporate contributions to political campaigns, the board of directors of Wrestling Babylon Blog LLP has authorized our crack staff to begin making in-kind donations to Richard Blumenthal in the closing weeks of his campaign against Linda McMahon for the open U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut.

We start today with free advice to Blumenthal on how to sharpen his rhetoric.

According to scattered blogosphere reports, Blumenthal today is stepping up his attacks on McMahon. In the space of a few minutes, tweets of the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch reveal, Blumenthal keeps repeating the phrase “profits before people” – which is also the tag line of his anti-Linda ads. Blumenthal also is saying, “This is an election, not an auction.”

Now, Dick, I know nothing about attorney-generaling. Also, I’ve never been elected dogcatcher. But I do know a thing or two about the structure and cadence of pro wrestling promotional interviews. With Linda McMahon, the Mommy Warbucks of World Wrestling Entertainment, you’re up against an adversary who has both her personal chops down pat and the best technical machinery behind them that money can buy. So I know you’ll forgive me for presuming to offer a few pointers.

Profits before people”? ... “an election, not an auction”? That’s a nice start – but it’s only a start. As Linda well knows and as you seem to be just learning, the voters are not interested in stock phrases about how you are a career public-service do-gooder and your opponent is a meanie. Your supporters and, more importantly, the undecideds are hungry for the specifics that will demonstrate that you are willing to get a little dirt under your fingernails in order to take down the consummate dirty fighter across from you. In case you haven’t noticed, this is the Year of Red Meat.

How about something like this:

“Linda McMahon, this is an election, not an auction, and it’s about people, not profits. I can understand how these concepts might be foreign to you. A few weeks ago yet another one of your wrestlers, Lance Cade, died at the age of 29. You said you ‘might have met him once’; in fact, it is well known that, per company protocol, he went up to you and shook your hand at several dozens of meetings backstage and at the WWE offices in Stamford.

“We don’t yet know exactly how Lance Cade – like dozens of others of your performers (whose classification as ‘independent contractors’ rather than employees is now under investigation by the State of Connecticut) – died. But it couldn’t have helped when Lance was smashed over the head with a steel chair on ‘Raw’ in October 2008, a year after you and your husband Vince falsely told CNN you were banning chair shots to the head. Then two weeks later – and a week after Lance had a seizure on an airplane caused by an overdose of painkillers – you held an auction on your website of the chair Shawn Michaels had used to batter Lance on TV. I hope the $315 winning bid didn’t go toward the $50 million you are spending to try to buy this Senate election.

“People, not profits, Linda. An election, not an auction.

“See you next Monday at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford.”

There’s more advice where this comes from. Just in case half the Supreme Court dies tomorrow and the ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns gets reinstated, Wrestling Babylon Blog LLP will be keeping a careful log of the time spent on this matter by our crack staff.

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Only a Fox News Debate Stands Between Wrestling Mogul Linda McMahon and the U.S. Senate

It’s not exactly Lincoln-Douglas, but the defining moment of the current American condition may be the first of the debates between the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut that is being vacated by Chris Dodd.

On October 4, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, Dodd’s successor-in-waiting and the longtime state attorney general, and Republican Linda McMahon, the co-founder and erstwhile chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, will square off in Hartford. The atmospherics heavily favor the latter: McMahon supporters snapped up almost all the public tickets for the live audience at the Bushnell Theater, and the debate moderator is Bret Baier of Fox News.


‘McMahon Mails First, Checks Results Later’

Seriously funny stuff from Hartford Courant columnist Colin McEnroe:,0,552938.column

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Only a Debate Moderated by a Fox News Guy Stands Between Wrestling Mogul Linda McMahon and the U.S. Senate' ... tomorrow at Beyond Chron

Irvin Muchnick’s opinion piece, “Only a Debate Moderated by a Fox News Guy Stands Between Wrestling Mogul Linda McMahon and the U.S. Senate,” will be published Tuesday, September 28, at Beyond Chron (, the San Francisco online newspaper.

Connecticut Media Show a Pulse on Linda McMahon Bankruptcy Story

Daniela Altimari, on the Hartford Courant‘s “Capitol Watch” blog, takes a swing at Linda McMahon’s fairy-tale rendition of her 1976 bankruptcy and attempt to turn her offense into the best defense. See “Bankruptcy as a campaign strategy,”

Let’s just say that Altimari, like David Collins of the New London Day, has barely begun to scratch the surface here.

Irv Muchnick

Hey, Congressman Anthony Weiner — Respond to My Email and I’ll Respond to Yours

he gall of Congressman Anthony Weiner.

His name is on an email to me today from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, subject line “Relentless,” asking me for a donation to help DCCC raise $403,112 more before the September 30 deadline of the Federal Election Commission.

But here’s a news flash, Tony: I’m not about to answer your email until you answer mine.

See “Muchnick Queries Congressman Anthony Weiner of the House Judiciary Committee” (July 8),

- AND -

“Yo, Congressman Anthony Weiner of the House Judiciary Committee” (July 27),

Irv Muchnick

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Awl Hearts Muchnick

[posted 9/24/10 to]

From “The Anticipation List,”

• I’m looking forward to more news of premature wrestling deaths coming out of the woodwork and dooming Linda McMahon’s Connecticut Senate bid, and for everyone to read Irvin Muchnick’s “Wrestling Babylon” and vote in Richard Blumenthal, a fine public servant! This is really the only part of the midterms I care about, and I care about it a lot — it’s a nice dream, at least! —Daniel D’Addario

Two and a Half Strangled Cheers for Linda McMahon

[posted 9/24/10 to]

No one following this blog should have any doubts about my opinion of Linda McMahon’s proud brand, World Wrestling Entertainment, or of her WWE-funded campaign for the United States Senate.

From a public-interest perspective, McMahonism seems ghastly. But at the same time, from a anthropological perspective, we should bear in mind that this is all just anthropology.


In business, Linda and her husband Vince benefited from adversaries who either were exceptionally inept (mossbacked regional wrestling promoters) or exhibited exceptional ineptitude at opportune moments (otherwise impressive television and sports moguls Eddie Einhorn and Ted Turner).

In politics in 2010, the same thing may be happening. Whether Linda or Richard Blumenthal wins the Senate race may now turn on luck – e.g., whether a WWE “soap opera” performer croaks on live TV a week before the election. To the everlasting shame of both the Republican and Democratic parties, it is no longer implausible (if it ever was) that Linda Edwards McMahon will be the junior senator from Connecticut in the 112th Congress.

And if that happens, for the sake of the state and the country, we will need hope as well as fear. To be sure, Linda is corrupt and unscrupulous, and represents nothing except herself and the cascades of cash fueling her material desires and image. To give the scrappy woman her due, however, she is also disciplined. I would imagine people said many of the same nasty things a century and a half ago about Phineas Taylor Barnum, and once in public office Barnum proved a surprisingly progressive state legislator and then an effectively technocratic mayor of Bridgeport.

Another saving grace of a McMahon victory, proving anew that there’s a sucker born every minute, is that Linda would not – at least not yet – be wielding executive power; she would merely be occupying one of 100 desks at The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. Though this was before my own time in California, in 1976 a Senate Democratic golden boy there, John Tunney (who, by the way, was the son of boxing champion Gene Tunney and his Connecticut socialite wife Polly Lauder), got his head handed to him by S.I. Hayakawa, the president of San Francisco State University. Hayakawa’s main claim to fame was the photo of him clutching a megaphone as he got overwhelmed by student protesters on campus in the late sixties. While in the Senate, he wrote an article for Harper’s discussing, among other things, that he fell asleep during floor debates. Hayakawa left after one term and the Republic survived.

I honestly don’t know whether Richard Blumenthal has the stuff to take down Linda McMahon. For one thing, she has demonstrated the cool and forensic skills suggesting she will not be destroyed in a debate. And at this stage of the game, she may only need to hold her own and avoid a shot of spittle dribbling from the corner of her mouth.

Speaking of the word “game,” President Obama said at his recent Greenwich fundraiser that public service is not a game. He was only half-right. It is not only a game. But it is in part a game, and Linda has shown that she knows how to play it, and not totally devoid of joy and panache.

In the focus-group sense, McMahon’s vagueness on the issues is impeccable – the line about deferring to “the legislative arena” the debate over the future of middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare is inspired fluff. As my fellow St. Louis native Yogi Berra might have observed, “When you find the third rail – don’t take it!”

My biggest problem with Senator McMahon would be the same problem I have with Citizen McMahon: she is filthy rich, literally, from spearheading an old industry in a new direction, toward entertainment that doesn’t just entertain but that gratuitously kills people. The McMahon family doesn’t directly murder its employees, of course; but it profits, nonetheless and even gleefully, when the corpses are delivered, by accident or design.

If this turns out to be a sign of a larger sickness in the America body politic ... well, at least it will be a deadly accurate one.

Irv Muchnick

All-Time Top 10 Search Engine Terms for Directing Visitors to This Blog

[posted 9/23/10 to]

(aside from “Irv Muchnick,” “Muchnick blog,” etc.)

1. Judy Moorberg

2. Linda McMahon daughter

3. Linda McMahon bankruptcy

4. ABC Nightline Prime

5. WWF sex

6. Linda McMahon commercial

7. WWE contracts

8. Randy Orton suspended

9. Lance Cade autopsy

10. Bare nipple

WWE’s Christian Has Torn Pec — Another Triumph of the Linda McMahon ‘Wellness Policy’

[posted 9/23/10 to]

World Wrestling Entertainment performer William Reso (“Christian”) is the latest wrestler to be out of action for half a year following surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, Dave Meltzer reports.

Torn pecs were almost unheard of prior to the steroid era.

Not that we’re accusing Christian of being a druggie. Or WWE of having a joke of a “Wellness Policy.” Or Linda McMahon of being wrong in asserting that there is no evidence that steroids are bad.

And don’t worry, Christian. The McMahons will pay the full cost of your rehab, unless they don’t.

Irv Muchnick

‘I’ve Never Been Investigated by Richard Blumenthal’ – The Diabolical Political Genius of Linda McMahon

[posted 9/23/10 to]

Ladies and gentlemen of Connecticut, stop and reflect for a moment on the undeniable savvy of Linda and Vince McMahon. If the game of the U.S. Senate election is knowing how to lower the bar, then without a doubt, no one does it better.

* In December 1989, as the New London Day revealed, Linda McMahon told another executive of her wrestling company to tip their Pennsylvania ring doctor, George Zahorian, that he was under federal investigation for illegal steroid distribution. (Soon thereafter, Zahorian was indicted, and in 1991 he became the first physician in the country to be convicted and sent to federal prison for violation of a statute criminalizing the prescription of steroids for non-therapeutic purposes.)

McMahon’s defense against The Day‘s story came from lawyer Jerry McDevitt: “At no time did they ever charge anybody with any kind of obstruction of justice ...” Gee, thanks, Jer!

* In 1994 Vince McMahon himself and the then-World Wrestling Federation went on federal trial for conspiracy to distribute steroids. A year later, after the McMahons were acquitted, the New York Post and the Village Voice both reported in painstaking detail how Rudy Giuliani crony Martin Bergman, the husband of McMahon lead defense counsel Laura Brevetti, made highly inappropriate pre-trial contact with Vince’s secretary, Emily Feinberg; Bergman represented himself as a television news producer offering Feinberg cash for her story, and these bribe precursors may well have suborned her subsequent testimony at trial.

On this one, Linda McMahon hasn’t even had to bother defending herself – not a single Connecticut news outlet has had the guts to pick up the accounts of the episode on this blog. (Traffic statistics, however, show that the reprint here of “In Bed With the WWF: Sex and Scandal in Pro Wrestling,” a chapter of my book Wrestling Babylon, which includes the Feinberg anecdote, is my most heavily visited individual post.)

Of course, if anyone does ask about l’affaire Feinberg, I’m sure Jerry McDevitt will be at the ready. After all, at no time was Martin Bergman or Laura Brevetti or Vince McMahon charged with any kind of obstruction of justice.

* And now the state of Connecticut is investigating World Wrestling Entertainment for abuse of independent contractor classification for its performers, who drop dead by the bushel. The McMahon campaign, which joined with WWE in leaking the news of the state audit (whose launch may well predate the campaign), has calibrated the perfect line on this. If WWE is charged with violating the law, the charge was politically motivated; if WWE is not charged with violating the law, “at no time” was it charged with violating the law.

As Wile E. Coyote used to say, “Brilliant!”

Even senatorial timber — unless people in the Nutmeg State wake up and realize how Linda McMahon’s money and media are playing them for fools.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Suckers Richard Blumenthal in Pointless JFK Ad Controversy

[posted 9/23/10 to]

The flap over the use or misuse in a Linda McMahon campaign commercial of John F. Kennedy’s nearly half-century-old image and tax plan is a perfect example of the sort of thing that moves the chattering class to apoplexy, while failing to move by one iota the needle of the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut.

Naturally, JFK’s nephew cried foul. Naturally, Kevin “Don’t Call Linda McMahon My Mouthpiece” Rennie fired off a one-liner about how another Kennedy got flummoxed by a hot blonde. (Let’s face it, it is a funny line, and was probably in the playbook all along.)

Journalist Ted Mann, of The Day, has blogged and wonked his way through the apples and oranges of supply-side projections of a 1963 tax change in the context of a 2010 global economic meltdown. But guess what the bottom line is, folks? Linda McMahon, the Über Carny, has drawn Richard Blumenthal, the clueless hack, into yet another huge waste of time.

What matters in this election is whether voters will lock in on the nouveau riche McMahon family’s reputed job-creation machine, World Wrestling Entertainment – actually a death mill whose core work is performed by benefit-free independent contractors in an environment of all-the-traffic-will-bear divertissement.

By taking the bait on McMahon’s Kennedy stunt, Blumenthal has frittered away several more precious days doing what appears to be the only thing he knows: clearing his throat.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon on the Pain and Humiliation of Licking S&H Green Stamps

[posted 9/22/10 to]

Linda McMahon clearly doesn’t intend to shut up about her bankruptcy. That’s because not getting called out on her ridiculous account to Lloyd Grove, the stenographer for The Daily Beast, is integral to her efforts to reverse a gender gap among Connecticut voters that, at the moment, skews against her.

The McMahon campaign has countered the Democrats’ MOM (Mothers Against McMahon) with its own artificial army, Mothers for Linda. On the web page, we get the safest and least objectionable corrective of the Daily Beast claim that McMahon was on government-assistance food stamps after getting married at 17 and “soon” becoming pregnant:

“Linda understands the difficult times many families face in this economy. She’s been there, too, confronting bankruptcy while pregnant with her second child and even needing to lick S&H Green Stamps to pay for baby formula.”

The wording here has stopped trying to confuse Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 1970 with New Britain, Connecticut, in 1976. (At the first point in the chronology, Linda’s husband Vince was working at a rock quarry. But the bankruptcy filing came at the second point, when Vince was a television announcer and full-time employee for his very successful wrestling promoter father, Vincent James McMahon, and was taking a financial bath on his own promotion of national closed circuit telecasts of the Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon Jump.)

I don’t know why the McMahon campaign now associates S&H Green Stamps only with the purchase of son Shane’s baby formula. What happened to the high chair?

Irv Muchnick


* “Has Linda McMahon Been Bankrupt TWICE? Or Is She Lying About the Circumstances?”,

* “My Exchange About Linda McMahon on Twitter With Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast,”

* “More on Linda McMahon and the ‘1970s’ Bankruptcy (Bankruptcies?),”

* “Still More Grist for the Linda McMahon Bankruptcy Mill,”

* “Wow, That Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast Sure Types Fast!”,

* “Will Connecticut Media Be a Day Late and a Dollar Short on Tall Tale of Linda McMahon Bankruptcy?”,

* “Connecticut Columnist: How Many Times Did Linda McMahon Go Bankrupt?”,

* “Dear Tina Brown: Will The Daily Beast Correct Its Inaccurate Account of Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s 1976 Bankruptcy?”,

* “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ... or Linda McMahon or Tina Brown?”,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Great Moments in Email, Part 7

[posted 9/21/10 to]

Letter to the editor of Beyond Chron from a reader named Gary Copestake, in reference to my piece yesterday, “Why a 2011 NFL Strike or Lockout Would Be the Best Thing for America,”

You are an idiot. Sorry to say, but it’s true. I am from Philadelphia, am a die hard Eagles fan, and respect the rules and dedication to the game. The truth of the matter is today’s game two things are happening. NFL players are becoming stronger and more prone to injury. Back in the day, players would wear a plastic helmet that looked as if it could be cut with scissors. If players don’t want to get injured or have the possibility of “concussions,” then they shouldn’t play the game. Simple as that.

Glad Copestake cleared that up. In other news today:

“Denver Broncos’ Wide Receiver Kenny McKinley Dies in Apparent Suicide”

Irv Muchnick

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ... or Linda McMahon or Tina Brown?

[posted 9/20/10 to]

While appreciating the tendency of the media to compartmentalize scoops, I do not understand why no one except New London Day columnist David Collins has gone anywhere with Linda McMahon’s shamelessly twisted account of her 1976 bankruptcy in Connecticut.

Or was that her 1970 bankruptcy in Maryland? And was it when she was pregnant with her first child or with her second? And was she on food stamps (which a reporter for The Daily Beast didn’t try all that hard to distinguish from S&H Green Stamps) or just defaulting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in obligations to Nutmeg State banks and contractors?

All important stuff to resolve, in this out-of-stater’s opinion. It’s a much more aggressive web of half-truths, possibly out-and-out lies, than the New York Times-manufactured scandal of Richard Blumenthal’s supposed stolen valor. Bankruptcy is an integral component of the $50 Million Dollar Woman’s counterintuitive bridge to populist appeal. In order to distort at this level, Blumenthal would have to have claimed a Purple Heart at the Battle of Khe Sanh.

Unfortunately, Daily Beast writer Lloyd Grove has not followed through on his September 2 promise to get back to your humble blogger “as soon as I recover my equilibrium from that chair you hit me on the head with.” (Get it? Journalism, like pro wrestling, is “soap opera.”)

Yesterday I tried Grove’s boss, Daily Beast editor Tina Brown. No dice there either, unsurprisingly.

But the true story remains a rich and revealing one. There’s a lot more to it than the photo on a McMahon mailer showing her car getting impounded and towed – a piece of art which, The Day’s Collins has revealed, was staged. From front to back, Linda’s effort to turn her bankruptcy story inside-out is just as manipulative as the way her family exploited Bush-era corporate tax laws and an “independent contractor” work force.

Irv Muchnick

New York Magazine: Linda McMahon Issue Is That WWE Is Deadly, Not Tacky

[posted 9/20/10 to]

“Richard Blumenthal has yet to jump in the ring with opponent Linda McMahon over her wrestling empire’s human toll.”

Jason Zengerle, New York magazine

‘Why a 2011 NFL Strike or Lockout Would Be the Best Thing for America’ ... today at Beyond Chron

[posted 9/20/10 to]

Why a 2011 NFL Strike or Lockout Would Be the Best Thing for America

by Irvin Muchnick

Beyond Chron

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dear Tina Brown: Will The Daily Beast Correct Its Inaccurate Account of Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s 1976 Bankruptcy?

The following letter was emailed to Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast.

Dear Ms. Brown:

Earlier this month The Daily Beast published a profile of Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, which included what appears at best an unclear account of her bankruptcy, and at worst a fabrication.

It is Ms. McMahon herself who has made her bankruptcy a central element of her campaign biography, arguing that it demonstrates that she has been through hard times and thus is in touch with average voters.

However, her interview with your Lloyd Grove suggests that she is telling, at a minimum, two different stories. One involves her 1976 bankruptcy filing in Connecticut, in which Ms. McMahon has acknowledged that she and her husband and World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder, Vince McMahon, defaulted on debts totaling hundreds of thousands – perhaps in excess of a million – dollars.

The other story is this confusing, chronologically defective, and thus far undocumented account in the Daily Beast piece: “She was married at 17 and soon pregnant, and the young family struggled financially. She was a stay-at-home mom with two little kids and Vince was working for his father, a small-time wrestling promoter, and having a hard time making a living. At one point, when they were living in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in the 1970s, they went bankrupt and briefly depended on food stamps.”

On September 2, immediately following the publication of your story, I posed questions about all this to your writer (for details, see my series of posts that day at Mr. Grove’s only response, via Twitter, was a vague promise to address them “as soon as I recover my equilibrium from that chair you hit me on the head with.”

Yesterday David Collins of the New London Day echoed the reporting and conclusion of my blog in a column headlined “How many times did Linda McMahon go bankrupt?” Mr. Collins wrote: “[W]hich was it? Did the McMahons file for bankruptcy in Hartford or in Maryland? Or did they file in both places?... I tried last week to get an answer from the McMahon campaign, but didn’t hear back from messages asking for a clarification. I also couldn’t reach Grove, to ask him whether he somehow misunderstood McMahon about filing for bankruptcy in Maryland.”

I believe you will agree that the inconsistencies of this scenario both impact the credibility of The Daily Beast and raise important matters of public discussion relative to the November election. I therefore hope to hear back from you on whether you intend to publish a retraction or clarification.


Irvin Muchnick

Connecticut Columnist: ‘How Many Times Did Linda McMahon Go Bankrupt?’

David Collins, a columnist for The Day in New London, has picked up on Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s cock-and-bull story about her bankruptcy — or bankruptcies. See

Collins was, I believe, the first Connecticut journalist to raise questions about the original campaign narrative surrounding the 1976 bankruptcy filing by Linda and her husband Vince, the co-founders of World Wrestling Entertainment. Today’s piece follows the coverage on this blog of the laughable recent interview of Linda by Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast, which either garbles her account or fuses it with or appends it to a story of the couple’s hard times in North Carolina and Maryland in the early years of their marriage, 1966-70.

“So which was it?” Collins writes. “Did the McMahons file for bankruptcy in Hartford or in Maryland? Or did they file in both places?” The columnist adds that messages to the McMahon campaign requesting clarification went unanswered, and “I also couldn’t reach Grove, to ask him whether he somehow misunderstood McMahon about filing for bankruptcy in Maryland.”


* “Has Linda McMahon Been Bankrupt TWICE? Or Is She Lying About the Circumstances?”,

* “My Exchange About Linda McMahon on Twitter With Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast,”

* “More on Linda McMahon and the ’1970s’ Bankruptcy (Bankruptcies?),”

* “Still More Grist for the Linda McMahon Bankruptcy Mill,”

* “Wow, That Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast Sure Types Fast!”,

* “Will Connecticut Media Be a Day Late and a Dollar Short on Tall Tale of Linda McMahon Bankruptcy?”,

Irv Muchnick

Concussion Saga of a Backup Baseball Catcher

Obama Came and Went; Linda McMahon Will Sink Only With Death News and Negative TV Ads

[posted 9/17/10 to]

No, I didn’t really expect President Obama, at last night’s fat-cat fundraiser in Fairfield County, to say the things I recommended in “What President Obama Should Say When He’s in Connecticut,”

The president said pretty much what he, or any president, always does,and in the process pulled in some big bucks for the Democratic Party from the usual suspects. His presence in the Nutmeg State had no substantial impact, positive or negative, on the Senate race. None.

Wrestling fan/journalist Keith Harris (who is British, which means that his comments have even more critical distance than mine), expressed annoyance at Obama for resorting “to the same tired wrestling puns that we’ve seen far too frequently in this race already. I’m not sure they help, it makes the Democrats seem aloof and arrogant, like they’re still not really taking Linda McMahon seriously, despite her closing the gap in the polls to within six points.”

In the next 46 days there will be more stories about McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment death mill, and there will be some amount of TV advertising by the Richard Blumenthal campaign focused on his opponent’s astronomical negatives. We’ll find out on the night of the first Tuesday in November whether that will be enough to head her off.

In the Three Stooges, Moe once asked Curly for the time, and Curly pulled out three watches. He explained that one ran 20 minutes fast every three hours, one ran five minutes slow every six hours, and one was broken — it stopped at two o’clock. To ascertain the correct time, you had to take the time of the one in the middle, divide it by the time of the one on the left, and subtract the time of the one on the right. “So what’s the time?” Moe asked. Curly pulled out a fourth watch, which was working perfectly. “Four-fifteen,” Curly said. And, of course, Moe broke the watch over Curly’s head.

The patented Muchnick Consensus Get A Life Tracker Of The Average Poll of Quinnipiac Professors Divided By Overpaid Political Consultants Times The Change In The S&P 500 has officially moved Blumenthal-McMahon from “leaning toss-up” to “toss-up leaning.”

Irv Muchnick

‘Blumenthal Says He Has Nothing to Do With State WWE Audit’

[posted 9/16/10 to]

New blog post by Brian Lockhart of Hearst:

WWE ‘Wellness Policy’ Bans Somas – Pain Medication or Party Drug?

[posted 9/16/10 to]

In his 2007 interview by the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Linda McMahon’s husband Vince explained the evolution of drug testing at World Wrestling Entertainment. In the 1980s, Vince said, “it was perceived, and I believe accurately so, that we had a cocaine problem [in which] a lot of people were engaged in that kind of party atmosphere.” One of the persistent messages of WWE’s “Wellness Policy,” instituted in 2006, is that abuse of recreational drugs was a thing of the past.

But the distinctions between performance enhancers/enablers and recreational drugs are not always so clear. For example, many pro wrestlers have dabbled, or worse, in GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid), one of the most notorious so-called “date rape” drugs. But if there have been date rapes by wrestlers using GHB, I am not aware of them. I associate the use in this community more with the evidence that it aids training by elevating growth hormone levels. But then, once in play, GHB also adds to the general cocktail of self-medication and intoxication while on tour.

Now WWE has informed the talent that it is banning Carisprodol, popularly known as “soma.” Indeed, under this change in the policy, the drug will not be allowed even if prescribed by a doctor. Soma is a muscle relaxer, whose legitimate use is obvious in this profession, but a lot of the guys over the years also have taken large doses to mess themselves up. Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer comments, “Due to the popularity of the drug with a certain segment of the talent base, this is probably the single most significant change to the policy since its inception.”

Most infamously, in 1998 a 27-year-old wrestler named Louis Mucciolo died in a pool of his own vomit after mixing alcohol with somas. Mucciolo wrestled under the name “Louie Spiccoli” – a reference to the early career signature performance of Sean Penn in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Mucciolo was among the “patients” of an Ohio doctor, Joel Hackett, who was one of the favorite promiscuously prescribing physicians of wrestlers after Dr. George Zahorian was convicted and sent to prison in 1991. (Zahorian openly handed out steroids and other drugs while he was the ringside physician at World Wrestling Federation television tapings in Pennsylvania, and supplied Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon by FedEx.) Hackett had prescribed Mucciolo the anti-anxiety drrug Xanax, as well as, almost certainly, testosterone.

Chastened by the Zahorian experience and by Vince’s narrow escape at his own 1994 federal trial, the McMahons barred Dr. Hackett from dressing rooms and spurred the medical board investigation that got him de-licensed.

The Wellness Policy change on somas occurs as WWE deals with the deepening health and behavior crisis surrounding wrestler Matt Hardy, who was taken off the crew during a recent British tour. (See “Wrestler Matt Hardy’s Physical Condition and Strange Behavior Challenge the ‘Wellness Policy’ at Linda McMahon’s WWE,” September 14,

Matt’s brother, Jeff Hardy, was dropped by WWE in last year at a moment when he was perhaps the company’s most popular performer, after being indicted on drug-trafficking charges that are still pending in North Carolina. [CORRECTION: He was arrested shortly after he let his WWE contract expire so he could take time off. Thanks to David Bixenspan.] Jeff Hardy now wrestles for the lesser-known TNA wrestling circuit.

Irv Muchnick

It’s the Breakthrough Year of Concussion Awareness in Sports — Will Connecticut Do Its Part?

[posted 9/16/10 to]

Alan Schwarz of The New York Times, who is on his way to a Pultizer Prize for his pathbreaking reporting on concussions in sports, has a devastating news analysis of the Philadelphia Eagles’ mismanagement of player Stewart Bradley’s injury in last Sunday’s National Football League game.

See “Eagles’ Handling of Head Injury Draws Spotlight,” Schwarz writes:

Acknowledging the league’s impact on young athletes, the N.F.L. asked a skeptical Congress and public to view its protocol changes last year as proof of its commitment to lead concussion awareness efforts.

N.F.L. players now must be removed for the rest of the day after a concussion is diagnosed; an independent doctor must clear the player before he can return; and a new poster warns players of head injuries with stunningly strong language. That placard even concludes, “Young Athletes Are Watching.”

Yet, when the entire football world saw the Eagles put Bradley at significant safety risk by not properly diagnosing his concussion, it only emphasized the crisis that exists in high school and youth football, where almost no one is watching at all.

Substitute “pro wrestling” for “high school and youth football,” and maybe even fewer than no one is watching. Because it’s just a soap opera, you know. Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, says so.

In Connecticut, as in several other states, there is pending state legislation to protect high school athletes from untreated concussions. McMahon, formerly the head of America’s No. 1 cartoon concussion factory, is now within striking distance of representing the Nutmeg State in Washington. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Intrigue Deepens in Story of State Investigation of WWE and the Connection – If Any – to the Linda McMahon Senate Campaign

Brian Lockhart, the Hearst reporter who yesterday broke the story of a Connecticut state government investigation of World Wrestling Entertainment independent contractor classifications, has followed up with a fascinating new blog post that raises a couple of important unanswered questions.

See “Why won’t WWE provide two important details about state audit?”,

It was WWE, not the state, that revealed the existence of the audit. Indeed, we still don’t even know what agency is conducting the probe; the company refuses to clarify and the government, as a matter of policy, won’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

The second unanswered question is the date of the audit’s launch. Lockhart suggests that it might even predate the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, and that this leak was designed to link an investigation of her company with innuendo that it is a political abuse of office by her Senate election opponent, attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

The only small piece of intelligence I can add is that when Blumenthal was on Face the State several months ago, Dennis House asked him if he had ever investigated WWE. Blumenthal replied that he couldn’t comment on any such work by his office. At the time that just sounded generically coy, but the story of WWE and alleged independent contractor abuse has given everything said by everybody on this subject a possible new meaning.

Irv Muchnick

88% Say WWE Wrestlers Are Employees: Wrestling Observer Poll


–Do you think WWE wrestlers are employees or independent contractors?

Employees 88.2%
Independent contractors 11.8

Wrestling Observer Advocates ‘WWE Study the Issues’; Pro Wrestling Torch Advocates Schedule Reform; I Advocate Regulation

Yesterday I posted this note on Twitter:

Dave Meltzer in 9/13 issue of Wrestling Observer: “I’ve long advocated WWE set up an independent agency to study the issues.” Pathetic.

The Twitterer @travlord then asked, “what about the Torch’s stance” on the subject of government regulation of the pro wrestling industry.

I asked Wade Keller, the editor of Pro Wrestling Torch, and here is what he said:

I’m not sure what our position has been over the years regarding occupational safety. We’ve certainly written A LOT over the last 20 years, but I don’t think we’ve ever honed in on a specific solution and endorsed it. My main cause has been what I think is most realistic and attainable, which is WWE mandating six weeks off twice a year for all talent across the roster, giving their bodies and perhaps more importantly their minds time to recharge, plus just touch base for more than a couple days with the non-WWE world and ground themselves. Time off while injured or not in good standing is very different than time off as part of the system that everyone partakes in. I just think that would do wonders for wrestlers long-term who after 10-15 years in the system know no other way to live or occupy themselves, and therefore they white-knuckle their way through the schedule until they collapse. As for government regulation, we’re neither for nor against it as an editorial stance, but if that worked in solving the problems, we’re obviously for it.

Keller’s proposal is a very good one. But I have a different perspective.

People are dying and that’s unacceptable, and we can’t wait for the industry leader to adopt a sensible proposal from a journalist, or for the talent to get organized enough to make it happen – the possibility of either is extremely remote. That is why I advocate toothful outside regulation of this out-of-control industry.

In the old days, when wrestling presented an often comical veneer of “kayfabe” legitimacy, the industry was monitored by a crazy-quilt of the same state athletic commissions overseeing boxing (and now, in some places, mixed martial arts). Today kayfabe is dead and no one wants it back. That doesn’t mean, however, that regulation of occupational health and safety is not in order.

I’m an equal-opportunity offender: law enforcement, politicians, the mainstream media — all take their shots on this blog. Wrestling fans and their media don’t deserve a pass; they need to get out of their reality-TV cocoons. This is Planet Earth, where people should be systematically sent to their deaths only in warfare, not in service of maxed-out profits, TV ratings, multimedia marketing, and fantasy entertainment whose consequences are not a fantasy. And where public health trumps the libertarian mumbo-jumbo enabling such a system.

Irv Muchnick

How Linda McMahon Will Try to Spin the State Investigation of WWE – Why the Spin Will Fail

World Wrestling Entertainment, the billion-dollar corporation effectively bankrolling and sponsoring the Senate candidacy of its co-founder and former CEO Linda McMahon, is now being audited by the state of Connecticut for possible misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

Company PR guy Robert Zimmerman told Brian Lockhart of Hearst newspapers: “WWE has always complied with the law. Up until this election, WWE has not been fined or investigated in the past for independent contractor classification. However, curiously the state of Connecticut is currently conducting an audit of WWE’s classification of independent contractors. WWE constantly reviews its internal practices and procedures to comply with ever-changing employee laws.”

This statement by the corporate spokesman foreshadows the more aggressive line we can expect to be hearing, either out loud or sotto voce, from the McMahon campaign. It goes like this: McMahon’s opponent in the Senate race, attorney general Richard Blumenthal, is abusing his office for partisan purposes.

Muchnick analysis:

I have no information on whether Blumenthal is behind the substance or the timing of the state investigation. I would not be shocked to learn that he is, in some form. But if so, there is still a key difference between this and J. Edgar Hoover-like spying or extraordinarily invasive review and harassment of personal tax returns. What is happening now is called statecraft: where politics and government appropriately, and usefully, intersect.

WWE’s “independent” contracts have been a source of controversy for years. A lawsuit challenging misclassification by a group of WWE wrestlers (including Christopher “Chris Kanyon” Klutsarits, who committed suicide this spring) was mooted on technical grounds – because of statute of limitations issues and because the named plaintiffs no longer worked for the company.

In truth, the Connecticut audit was a long time coming, and was probably delayed only because officials were reticent to challenge a powerful home-state corporation. If it was the McMahon family’s reach for elective office that finally eroded that reticence, then so be it.

Partisan? The Misclassification Commission, whose 2008 report on independent contractor abuse spurred the type of audit we’re seeing with WWE, was the joint work product of a Republican governor, Jodi Rell, and the state legislature. The same bipartisan forces, I might add, that rubber-stamped Linda McMahon’s appointment to the state Board of Education in January 2009 even after it was revealed that she had lied on her resume about her academic credentials.

McMahon’s cries of dirty campaigning by Blumenthal would be laughable, considering that she has all but denuded the Amazonian forest with slick mass mailings that smear Blumenthal in ridiculous proportion over his “in-vs.-during” Vietnam misstatements.

Finally – Prospective Blumenthal supporters who have expressed frustration over his heretofore passive campaign are going to have to consider whether it is through developments such as this one that the would-be Democratic senator might be finding his voice. Letting surrogates attack WWE deaths and programming while he concentrates on things he knows best, such as the law? I That may work for him. And I, personally, don’t have a problem with it – even though I realize that the Connecticut media would prefer to educate the electorate through lowbrow YouTube clips and corny smackdown metaphors.

Irv Muchnick

‘Brain Damage’ Is No. 2 Trending Topic at Yahoo

'Entirely Appropriate' to Examine Anew WWE's Independent Contractor Practices

Here is how I am quoted at the end of Brian Lockhart’s article in Wednesday’s Stamford Advocate on a state audit of World Wrestling Entertainment’s use of independent contractor classification for its wrestlers:

“With the financial success of the McMahon family reaching the point where it is now underwriting a `self-funded’ Senate campaign, while the public fallout of their corporation’s occupational health and safety standards continues to go unaddressed by government, it is entirely appropriate to be taking a fresh look at all this.”

Lockhart’s story notes that a February report of Connecticut’s Joint Enforcement Commission on Employment Misclassification, formed by Governor Jodi Rell and the state legislature in 2008, said that while “employee/worker misclassification may sound like a mere paperwork issue,” it is “a serious and significant problem” resulting in unfair treatment of workers, giving guilty companies an unfair competitive advantage through artificially lower costs of doing business, and making “law-abiding taxpayers bear more of the tax burden.”

The timing of the WWE audit, of course, is intriguing — both because WWE’s former CEO, Linda McMahon, is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and because a representative of her Democratic opponent, state attorney general Richard Blumenthal, serves on the misclassification commission along with others from the departments of labor and revenue services, the chief state’s attorney, and the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

See “WWE: State auditing company for misclassification of employees,”

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wrestling Journalist De-Spins WWE Response to Independent Contractor Story

From James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch,

[H]ow much WWE talent earns has absolutely nothing to do with independent contractor vs. employee classification. The top 10 percent in WWE are making over $1.0 million to raise that annual average, which is irrelevant anyways. “Wrestling less than three days per week,” is misleading, as it fails to take into consideration the full-time WWE schedule where talent are on the road year-round with no break.

WWE covering rehabilitation cost is an indirect indictment of the system. It shouldn’t get that point where they need to cover “rehabilitation” costs when talent are destined to break down mentally and physically being on the road 52 weeks out of the year with no off-season. Also, the “wrestling less than three days” statement doesn’t take into consideration travel days in-between dates. Wrestlers can’t recover physically as part of their training to stay in shape to appear on TV, especially with the increased number of international dates and tours.

What President Obama Should Say When He’s in Connecticut

At last word, President Obama was scheduled to visit Connecticut to help raise money for the Senate campaign of Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general and Democratic candidate who is being wildly outspent by “self-funded” Republican Linda McMahon, the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment.

The word is also that Obama will not stump for Blumenthal at public rallies in the Nutmeg State. This is because polls show that public dissatisfaction with the Obama administration in Washington, during a persistent economic recession, is a drag on Blumenthal.

But whether his presence in the Nutmeg State winds up aggressively public or discreetly private, whether it’s ultimately about soaring words or grubby money, the president of the United States will be compelled to say a thing or two or three while he’s there. I therefore am providing, free of charge to the White House communications staff and to the Democratic National and State Committees, the following draft remarks.

My observations about the Connecticut Senate election take many forms. Obviously I would like to see my party hold its majorities in both houses of Congress and assist my agenda in the third and fourth years of my presidential term.

Let’s talk for a minute about that agenda. During the 2008 election, I said some things that the American people wanted to hear – and I didn’t say some other things that I calculated they didn’t want to hear. Like all ambitious politicians, I went along with some stupid gimmicks. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t appeared on WWE’s Monday Night Raw that year. Hillary Clinton, my main opponent for the Democratic nomination, and John McCain, my eventual opponent in the general election, also appeared, but that’s no excuse. I was running for president, not kitsch king.

I also shouldn’t have gone on Monday Night Football the night before the election, and on 60 Minutes between the election and the inauguration, to say that my No. 1 sports priority would be the elimination of college football’s Bowl Championship Series and the institution of a true national championship game. I’m often accused of being aloof from the passions, interests, and needs of average Americans, but oddly, this was a situation where I, a sports fan, got all too caught up in the roar of the rabblement.

And finally, I never, ever should have gone on WWE’s Tribute to the Troops on NBC just as Linda McMahon was gaining steam with her Senate campaign, which is funded by an industry that everyone should now understand is a systematic death mill.

I arrive in Connecticut just as the state government is undertaking a long-overdue investigation of WWE’s independent contractor practices. Even though I came out of Harvard Law School, I agree with the Yale Law School professor who has termed “immoral” and probably illegal WWE’s use of independent contractors – including a “death clause” in its employment agreements with performers who are dropping dead at actuarially impossible rates, all in the name of multimedia marketing and uninterrupted junk entertainment. That this takes place in an environment of greater awareness of both the individual human and the larger public-health costs of undiagnosed and untreated concussions in wrestling, as in all contact sports, just makes that much worse Linda McMahon’s attempted march from Main Street in Stamford to Constitution Avenue in Washington, by means of $50 million of WWE profits.

Like so many things about why Ms. McMahon’s WWE experience – touted as her qualification for the Senate – actually should disqualify her, the independent contractor issue is not some extraneous detail pulled out of nowhere. Indeed, I have made independent contractor reform a centerpiece of my efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit; misclassification of workers costs governments at all levels untold revenues from payroll taxes that should have been, but weren’t, withheld.

But even more importantly, the independent contractor issue fits together with America’s health care crisis and the shape of its work force in the 21st century. Do people in Connecticut and throughout the United States really want to see corporations relying more and more on lawyer-rigged arrangements that employ casually, as temps and “independent contractors,” the people who do the lion’s share of their sweat-of-the-brow work? Ms. McMahon can twist the nature of her business all she wants and tell jokes about her “soap opera,” but that is what is at stake in her bid for high elective office. The people who work for her may be producing a TV soap opera, but they are not themselves soap opera characters. They are human beings, and they do not have basic occupational health and safety protections, and they are dying in unacceptable numbers. We can disagree over our involvement in or the schedule of disengagement from wars in Asia. But we shouldn’t be disagreeing over whether a TV show is a war and whether people should be dying from their participation in it.

Regulating the pro wrestling industry is not just the responsibility of the state of Connecticut. In 2007 the House Committee on Oversight and Public Reform investigated WWE following the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit, but nothing came of it; committee chairman Henry Waxman simply sent a little-noticed letter, with supporting documentation, to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, just as President Bush was leaving office and I was about to take it.

Again, to state the obvious, I hope Richard Blumenthal wins and Linda McMahon loses. But regardless of the outcome here, one thing I will be doing in January 2011 is asking the appropriate committees of the next Congress to conduct public hearings to finish the work begun in 2007 by the Waxman Committee, and to set in motion the re-regulation of the out-of-control professional wrestling industry.

Irv Muchnick

Let Me Say This Again: I Don’t Give a Crap Who Wins the Senate Election in Connecticut

If Linda McMahon wins, but the heightened scrutiny of her wrestling industry leads to reforms that save lives, that would be a good thing.

If Richard Blumenthal wins, and the margin of victory can be ascribed to the exposure of the culture of industrial death at McMahon’s WWE, which in turn compels the new senator to reopen and finish Congressional investigations of that industry, that would be a good thing.

If the state of Connecticut’s investigation of WWE’s immoral, and likely illegal, independent contractor chicanery leads to constructive changes, yet the backlash against perceived desperation tactics on the part of Blumenthal costs him the election ... then that would be a good thing.

Irv Muchnick

Connecticut Is Investigating WWE’s Use of Independent Contractors

From the blog of Brian Lockhart of Hearst newspapers:

Brain Disease Finding in College Football Suicide

Much as I hate to crash the party of Quinnipiac polls and smackdown headlines, I suggest that everyone read this latest from Alan Schwarz of The New York Times:

“Suicide Reveals Signs of a Disease Found in N.F.L.”

The disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, has been found in pro football players — and, so far, in dead World Wrestling Entertainment performers Chris Benoit and Andrew Martin.

Irv Muchnick

Wrestler Matt Hardy’s Physical Condition and Strange Behavior Challenge the ‘Wellness Policy’ at Linda McMahon’s WWE

I don’t pretend to understand what exactly is going on with Matt Hardy, the World Wrestling Entertainment performer who was pulled from his last booking on a just-concluded European tour because of concerns over his health. In response to the report, Hardy posted an incoherent YouTube video.

I don’t know Matt Hardy and I don’t wish ill on any real person, famous or obscure, for the possible effect on the Senate race in Connecticut. But it’s clear that something is going on, and it isn’t good, and the something going on that isn’t good once again reflects poorly on the sham company “Wellness Policy” that Linda McMahon cites every time another wrestler drops dead.

For a good overview of the Matt Hardy situation, I recommend Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller’s “Why is Matt Hardy still wrestling if, as the announcers have said on TV, he can’t do cardio to stay in shape?”,

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon ‘Kicked Dirt on the Graves’ of Other Dead Wrestlers Besides Lance Cade. See ‘Benoit, Chris’ and the 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Intervie

Seven months ago this blog ran a multi-part series on what I called Linda McMahon’s despicable June 2007 interview on ABC’s Good Morning America – which she used to spread innuendo that Chris Benoit’s 7-year-old son Daniel had a condition called Fragile X Syndrome, and that this was the key factor in the World Wrestling Entertainment star’s double murder/suicide in Georgia.

“The video should be unearthed and broadcast alongside McMahon’s expensive TV commercials for her Connecticut U.S. Senate campaign,” I wrote on February 4. “It is despicable: Linda’s female soft-shoe to husband Vince’s male tap-dance sound bite the same week that no one could have foretold that Chris Benoit was ‘a monster.’”

I now have a link to the video clip (along with the existing links to the full transcript of the interview and to audio of another similar interview):

The focus of the Benoit story, Linda McMahon told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, “is really turning more to the tension that must have been happening between a husband and wife over, you know, the management and the schooling and the rearing of this child who had the mental retardation.”

Within days, WWE backed away from this statement by McMahon and similar ones by WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt.

More recently, former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski, of Boston’s Sports Legacy Institute, said McMahon was “kicking dirt on the grave” of another performer, Lance Cade, who died at 29 from heart failure brought on by an addiction to painkillers. Linda said she “might have met him once.” According to WWE sources, she actually had met Cade dozens of times at TV tapings and at company headquarters in Stamford.

In October 2008 WWE had gotten a jump on kicking dirt on Cade’s grave when it auctioned over the Internet, for $315, the steel chair another wrestler, Shawn Michaels, had used on television to batter Cade once on the head and 18 other times on other parts of his body.

Further reading:

“Linda McMahon and ‘Fragile X Syndrome’ (Part 1),” Introduction —

“Linda McMahon and ‘Fragile X Syndrome’ (Part 2),” Chris Benoit’s Son’s Medical Condition Sets Off a Media Frenzy —

“Linda McMahon and ‘Fragile X Syndrome’ (Part 3),” Linda McMahon Goes on “Good Morning America” —

“Linda McMahon and ‘Fragile X Syndrome’ (Part 4),” Let’s Go to the Videotape —

“Linda McMahon and ‘Fragile X Syndrome’ (Part 5),” The DA and WWE Back Off; What Does It All Mean? —

“Linda McMahon’s Despicable 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Interview,”

“For Linda McMahon’s WWE, Depraved Is As Depraved Does,”

Irv Muchnick

Lowell Weicker With Words of Humility and Truth

This has nothing to do with the themes of this blog, or my attacks on him as a charter board member of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. — but former Connecticut senator and governor Lowell Weicker has written a sensible op-ed piece for the Hartford Courant that everyone should read:

Weicker: State’s Problems Are Our Responsibility,0,2142960.story

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yale Prof Calls Independent Contractor Scheme at Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Immoral’; Wrestling Writer Agrees

Read James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch take apart World Wrestling Entertainment’s arguments for independent contractor status for its performers:

Muchnick’s 8/31 Radio Interview in Waterbury in Podcast Form

The podcast of Irvin Muchnick’s 15-minute interview on August 31with Larry Rifkin on 1320 WATR in Waterbury, Connecticut, now can be downloaded at

In Response to Mick Foley on the Media on Linda McMahon

[posted 9/9/10 to]

Pro wrestling star and bestselling author Mick Foley blogs today about his experiences in the media coverage of the Linda McMahon Senate campaign. Not surprisingly, Foley’s thoughts are well considered and well put. Go read “Whatever Happened to Research,”, and then come back.

I said Foley was thoughtful and articulate. I didn’t say he was right. His complaints about the media are boilerplate, unspecific, and unfair. They’re also ironic coming from a professional in media manipulation.

Regarding Ray Hernandez of The New York Times, I agree with Foley that Hernandez turned out a poor piece – but for completely different reasons. As I said in my initial reaction blog, “New York Times Sets a New World Record: 2,300 Words on Linda McMahon – Not One of Them ‘Benoit’ or ‘Death’,”, I was flabbergasted that The Times would publish a piece with this particular slant, but do so only in vague code. (I later acknowledged that my disappointment in The Times here was too strong, and suggested that readers go to the more balanced review of the piece by Keith Harris of Cageside Seats.)

But, unlike Foley, I didn’t then and I don’t now presume to complain publicly about whom Hernandez chose to quote, and how. That is his business. For those following this blog, it should be obvious that political reporters, like everyone else, have agendas and pressures that only they can understand on deadline; it also should be obvious that voices like mine are driving coverage to a much greater extent that our mere quotient of quotes and sound bites would suggest.

Foley has the same problem in talking about the work of Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register: Foley talks about the process instead of the product. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem that Stannard had never heard of John Cena; rather, I think it’s to Stannard’s credit that he acknowledged to Foley that he didn’t understand the reference. That belies the headline of Foley’s post, as the point of the anecdote is precisely that the reporter was doing research. As they say, “He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child – teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool – shun him.”

Stannard’s story is very good and that’s all that’s important — not whether he came to it with a large base of preexisting knowledge.

Finally, I agree with Foley that it would be wrong for the Connecticut election to become a referendum on the wrestling industry’s taste or status. But a referendum on Linda McMahon’s accountability for a pandemic of industrial deaths on her watch? Jesus beezus, she’s running for high elective office based only on her experience as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Mick Foley and I might disagree on the level of Linda’s accountability, but in playing the self-pitying cultural populist, he’s trying to turn attention away from real life-and-death issues. And I don’t buy that attempt.

Call me if you want to talk more, Mick.

Irv Muchnick