Linda McMahon: ‘I’ve Worked and Been in a Business That Is Very Testosterone-Loaded’

Linda McMahon’s hoped-for half-hour of dross and drivel on Face the State today was rudely interrupted by tough questions focused on her past as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Host Dennis House and reporters Daniela Altimari and Brian Lockhart did a good job nailing McMahon on the contradictions between her experience, and lack of same, and her qualifications to become a United States senator from Connecticut. Lockhart was especially skeptical and effective, but the overall package well exposed flaws in this candidate that will only magnify as the campaign proceeds.

The money quote came early on when McMahon,  addressing a question about her skill set, used the most unfortunate choice of words imaginable to refute any suggestion that she was “shy and retiring.”

“I have worked and been in a business that is very testosterone-loaded,” McMahon said.

Cue the laugh track. It is a business so “testosterone-loaded” that her employees — er, excuse me, independent contractors — drop dead at actuarially impossible rates. This sound bite was a perfect bridge to the subsequent interrogation about WWE’s joke of a “wellness policy” at the very moment the company’s co-founder seeks public office based, in part, on her opposition to health-care reform. That opposition, and retiring Senator Chris Dodd’s support of it, surely factored into the decision of WWE board member Lowell Weicker’s earlier endorsement of Dodd.

Lockhart also got McMahon to concede that WWE’s talent contract places all risk on the wrestlers and none on the company (though the exchange didn’t get around to noting that the contract has the language “including death” and explicitly absolves WWE even in the case of “the promoter’s negligence”).

In another devastating passage, Lockhart noted McMahon’s 2006 campaign contribution to Senator Joe Lieberman. Interestingly, the reporter did not focus on the partisan dimension of the controversy (Lieberman is a Democrat-Independent; McMahon is a Republican). Nor did Lockhart harp on what I often cite: Lieberman has heavy-handed “family values” chops and was on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council, which paid seven figures to WWE to settle a defamation suit. Rather, Lockhart pointed out that Lieberman was the consummate insider in his reelection fight four years ago, whereas McMahon is disingenuously trying to position herself as a political outsider.

In a bit of amusing byplay as she defended WWE’s record, McMahon apologized for referring to the company as “we”: “Old habits are hard to break.” At another point, talking about where she sits in the polls, she said she was doing better in the “ratings” than she expected at this stage.

I will be commenting further on this important interview and raising what I consider the best follow-up questions to McMahon’s dismissal of criticisms of the Wellness Policy.

The video is up at http://www.wfsb.com/facethestate/index.html and is highly recommended.

Irv Muchnick

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