How Linda McMahon Will Try to Answer – But Fumble – ‘The Question’

One of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the Connecticut politico season comes on Sunday, when Linda McMahon will be interviewed about her U.S. Senate candidacy on Dennis House’s Face the State on Hartford’s WFSB, Channel 3. I understand the interview will be recorded on Thursday evening.

Unlike ABC News cream puff Kate Snow, House is attuned to the pertinent issues. One of the big ones is what I’ve been calling “The Question”: McMahon’s electoral accountability for the culture of death in the pro wrestling industry, from which McMahon reaped the millions of dollars that have allowed her to buy enough name recognition to become a viable candidate.

The co-host of weekend Good Morning America, playing a journalist on World News, can giggle all she wants about how she accepted Linda’s challenge to arm-wrestle. But somewhere in their guts, the people of the Nutmeg State know that a cluster of avoidable deaths of employees in a show business in a non-war zone is not a laughing matter. And that McMahon’s bid for high elective office has upped the ante, injecting this question straight into the water supply of political conversation.

Kate Snow evidently didn’t even get around to asking McMahon about her experience running a death mill hidden in plain sight. Attempting to cover Snow’s shallow tracks, an ABC News producer did slip into an Internet-only background piece a vague passage about “all these health issues,” and Linda clumsily turned it aside.

But now she faces Dennis House and the Connecticut voters in real time, without a net. No doubt Linda’s handlers, the best money can buy, are prepping her as furiously as her husband Vince is pumping up wrestler Bret Hart in anticipation of their WrestleMania “street fight.” Still, at the end of the day, Linda will fumble her answer to The Question if it is properly posed and pressed. This is not because she is stupid. This is because, as I’ve been saying on this blog, it is a question with no good answer.

McMahon’s canned answer breaks down into two parts. To the ABC producer she stumbled and mumbled into a third:  “As our company has grown and as we have matured and are able to do more and more things, we’re much more in tune, much more sensitive, to taking care of these men and women.”

All three pieces are b.s. to the nth power.

The first piece of the answer, the oldest one, is that “only” five performers have died while under contract to World Wrestling Entertainment. (Generously, the company includes on its list Chris Benoit, who in June 2007 murdered his wife and their son and killed himself – though Linda and her henchmen are also quick to point out both that he was a “monster” and that people from all walks of life have been known to “go postal” from time to time.)

That piece was well exposed by the December death of wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu. In June 2009 Fatu had been fired for violating the WWE Wellness Policy and refusing to go to drug rehab. In the company’s statement of condolence, it went out of its way to document this fact. What WWE didn’t add was that Fatu dropped dead of a drug-induced heart attack on the virtual eve of his return to WWE. But he doesn’t count, you see.

There are scores of less dramatic but parallel examples of dead wrestlers who either were in WWE at one time, where they developed or worsened bad habits inspired by the McMahon family’s talent rewards system, or lived the same lifestyle while working for the competitors or feeder circuits of the multibillion-dollar industry WWE dominates, and for which it sets the tone for standards.

The second piece of Linda’s response to The Question is, “We have a Wellness Policy.” Yes, and Richard Nixon had a peace plan for Vietnam.

Under the Wellness Policy, the aforementioned Chris Benoit passed his drug tests with flying colors. Well, actually, he didn’t pass them, as WWE’s administrator would later admit, but they weren’t “conclusion positives” because Benoit had a therapeutic-use exemption. In other words, because his endocrine system had been maimed by decades of steroid abuse, keeping him from generating a normal supply of male hormones, he was allowed  to continue abusing steroids.

At the time of the murder-suicide, WWE’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, assured the media that Benoit had no drugs from Internet pharmacies. In fact, the first stash the police found was a Chinese growth hormone not licensed for sale in the U.S. Like a disproportionate number of other current and past WWE wrestlers, Benoit was on the customer list of the busted Internet gray-market dealer Signature Pharmacy.

In Benoit’s post-mortem toxicology report, he showed an astounding testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59 times normal: enough junk to muscle up a moose. But McDevitt and Linda McMahon’s other henchmen proclaimed that Benoit had no “illegal steroids” inside him – only testosterone. In other words, no street heroin – only doctor-prescribed morphine. (That doctor, Phil Astin, one of a number whose promiscuous prescription pads feed the habits of wrestlers and celebrities, is now doing ten years in federal prison.)

I know, I know … that’s all in the past. And as Mark McGwire used to say, we don’t want to talk about the past. The present is a Wellness Program under the supervision of WWE medical director Dr. Joseph Maroon. Unfortunately, as my blog has reported, Dr. Maroon won’t even speak up to correct WWE’s bald-faced lie to ESPN about the company’s contacts with a West Virginia brain institute that studied the damage Benoit suffered from repeated and untreated concussions. (Maroon himself visited the institute, met with the doctors, and was shown the Benoit studies in 2008.)

As for the future? That’s Face the State, Sunday on Channel 3. WFSB has been slow about putting these segments up online, and I don’t live in Connecticut. Any chance someone out there can YouTube it? That would do a lot more for the commonweal than those dumb clips of Linda McMahon giving wrestling announcer Jim Ross a kick in the cajones.

Irv Muchnick

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