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

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