Archive for May, 2010

Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam Semantics vs. Linda McMahon’s Insultingly Bad Business Memory

The occasion of Memorial Day has intensified the dissatisfaction – in some quarters, disgust – over Richard Blumenthal’s occasional puffing up of his military record. Properly so, I think.

I also think Linda McMahon is taking extraneous darts over random and often pointless gotchas in her business record at World Wrestling Entertainment, when she should be facing howitzers for central elements of it.

Blumenthal has been loose with his language about serving in the Marine Reserves “in” rather than “during” the Vietnam War.

McMahon, for her part, has erected a no-credibility stone wall in front of her memory of a possible criminal act – obstruction of justice – and no one is calling her on it.

In December 1989, based on a tip she now says came from the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Pennsylvania, McMahon told an executive of her wrestling company to tip off their steroid connection, Dr. George Zahorian, that he was under federal investigation. Her accounting for this so far has consisted of this statement to Ted Mann of The Day in New London: “I don’t pretend to remember to go back, to revisit all the aspects of that case.”

There is a double irony in Linda McMahon’s refusal to “pretend to remember,” since just about everything about her qualifications for public office is based on pretend: it seems that she only pretended to be involved in highly profitable television sleaze; and she pretended to have a degree in education when Governor Jodi Rell appointed her to the state board of education.

But, of course, her assertion of a faulty memory alone deserves howls of derision. If McMahon can’t remember central facts of the central crisis of her business career, then how can she hold herself up as a serious candidate to discharge the public’s business?

This all reminds me of one of the three conversations I’ve ever had with Linda’s husband Vince McMahon, and the only substantive one. In 1992, as a stringer for People magazine, I broke the story that Hulk Hogan, licensor of a children’s vitamin line, was a steroid abuser and a druggie. (Shocker!) On deadline, Vince agreed to a damage-control phone interview.

At one point I asked him how much his then-World Wrestling Federation had had to pay to get ABC’s John Stossel to drop a lawsuit after wrestler David Shults slapped him silly on camera.

“I don’t remember the amount,” Vince replied.

I persisted. “I find it hard to believe that a CEO wouldn’t remember a number like that,” I said.

“Don’t insult me,” Vince said. “I said I don’t remember.”

This time it’s Linda who doesn’t remember. And the insult is on the people of Connecticut.

Irv Muchnick

Welcome to Linda McMahon’s Wide World of XFL Politics

Anyone expecting me to take a frontal partisan shot at Kevin “Don’t Call Me Linda McMahon’s Mouthpiece” Rennie for his column in Sunday’s Hartford Courant will be disappointed. Rennie is just doing what he always does, and quite plausibly, in his column “Blumenthal, McMahon Approval Ratings Take A Beating,” http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-rennie-0530-20100530,0,2689091.column.

This veteran of Connecticut Republican circles, who has put all his eggs in the basket of McMahon’s faux-outsider credentials in a national political year of faux outsiders, actually makes a lot of sense at the retail level. Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam gaffe is more damaging than the snap Quinnipiac poll suggests. Linda McMahon’s Republican opponent Rob Simmons did try to have it both ways by backing out of the race after losing at the convention without really backing out.

Above all, Rennie is right when he observes that Linda and Vince McMahon don’t give a flying FU what the chattering class thinks of their dignity, tactics, or World Wrestling Entertainment pedigree. The Rennie line, “There are no pretty ways to build a fortune,” echoes another I have been quoting a lot on this blog: “Popular culture has always been a bit coarser than political leaders like to acknowledge.”

I don’t know how the Senate race will turn out. But what’s pretty clear already is that it is the political echo of the XFL football league. In 2001 the McMahons, cash-rich after a public stock offering, decided to export their pro wrestling marketing operation to pro football. Challenging the hegemony of the National Football League, they got their Fairfield County buddy, NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol, to convince network brass that an alternative spring football league could do no worse than the recycled movies and standard crap that was being broadcast on Saturday, the week’s slowest ratings night.

The McMahons and Ebersol were spectacularly wrong. The XFL made the cover of Sports Illustrated and got big numbers for the first week of its novelty act. Then it fell to record low levels.

The XFL was farcical history after one season. But not so fast with that epitaph: the frank coarseness of the product pushed the established NFL, which was already barreling in that direction anyway, into new frontiers of coarseness. Vince and Linda usually don’t win when they venture outside their comfort zone of “sports entertainment,” but they always leave footprints. Their anthropological role is to stick style points in our faces, and up our asses.

The McMahon-manufactured New York Times hit on Blumenthal and the surprise win at the Republican convention were Linda’s Sports Illustrated cover and premiere ratings smash. What remains to be seen is whether the general election cycle will simply take the XFL’s second-rate football to a new platform.

Here’s what neither Kevin Rennie nor his ideological adversaries ever completely grasp: the larger meaning of WrestleWorld isn’t its size, but its ability to export values when we’re not looking. Those values are now on display in the political arena, and they make the Willie Horton ads of the 1988 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign look like the Lincoln-Douglas debates by comparison.

My guess is that Linda’s campaign will go the way of the XFL – that is, it will “lose,” not “win.” But like everyone else, I’m along for the ride to see what gruesome gimmick lies around the next corner. There are no pretty ways to find out if crudeness is just part of the package of statecraft, or has become its essence.

Irv Muchnick

Forget Linda McMahon’s Daughter’s Bare Nipple – Take a Look at Her Sleazoid Son-in-Law’s ‘Nutritionist’

With a salaciousness that only this Connecticut Senate race can offer, David Collins of New London’s The Day writes today, “… Democrats have not yet rolled out the ads that surely will depict [Linda] McMahon presiding over an entertainment product juiced up with violence, prostitution, adultery and other topics not so conducive to a family values campaign. Some of it, like a picture of McMahon’s daughter in the World Wrestling Entertainment ring with a bare nipple showing, can’t even be used in opposition advertisements.” See http://www.theday.com/article/20100528/NWS05/305289883/-1/NWS.

As a public service, the ever-helpful Connecticut Capitol Report (http://ctcapitolreport.com) runs the photo of Stephanie McMahon Levesque’s enhanced mammaries. But believe me, viral emails of a bare boob are comparatively tame stuff.

My friend Anthony Roberts, “the CNN of steroids,” reports that a customer of the supplement company owned by Dave Palumbo, the “nutritionist” for Stephanie’s husband Paul “Triple H” Levesque, this week filed a civil lawsuit in New York against Palumbo and his Species Nutrition line. The plaintiff, Maria Bezrodnaya, alleges that the products “Lipolyze” and “Somalyze” caused her to sustain near-fatal liver injuries.

Dave Palumbo was already well known as one of the dirtiest of the many dirty characters who have pushed supplements through articles in publications like Muscular Development magazine. At one point he was imprisoned for selling fake Human Growth Hormone – all the while giving it his unabashed endorsement, claiming his own freakish physique was a result of a product that, in fact, was simply sugar water (and unsterilized sugar water at that). After his release from prison, Palumbo became Triple H’s personal trainer.

“Palumbo is known as a steroid guru more than anything else,” Anthony Roberts tells me. “In the bodybuilding world, the terms ‘nutritionist’ and ‘steroid advisor’ are synonymous. Dave’s ‘contest prep’ services include designing steroid cycles.”

Roberts says the new lawsuit against Palumbo exposes “that what he is telling the public in the promotion of his products is in direct contradiction to what has been documented by medical experts.”

Roberts’ blog post, “Personal injury lawsuit filed against Species Nutrition – and more!”, is at http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/2010/05/personal-injury-lawsuit-filed-against-species-nutrition-and-more/.

As I’ve reported previously on this blog, the consulting cardiologist for WWE’s so-called Wellness Policy – Dr. Bryan Donohue of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – is also a founder of an unregulated supplement company, and sometimes hypes his product without even disclosing his equity interest. Meanwhile, wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu died last December, six months after leaving WWE, and the autopsy showed that he had an enlarged heart.

Irv Muchnick

Let’s Match Up the Records of ‘War Liar’ Blumenthal and ‘Panderer’ McMahon

I think everyone will agree that I have sucked up quite enough to Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal Inquirer. His latest column, “Which will hurt more: ‘war liar’ or ‘panderer’?”, http://www.journalinquirer.com/articles/2010/05/27/chris_powell/doc4bfd8a5a6c0d5972894794.txt, has the Richard Blumenthal vs. Linda McMahon dynamic only half-right.

There’s no quarrel with this thought: “Here’s betting that while they make this year’s U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut the most poisonous in history, [the two mud-slinging points] largely cancel each other out.”

Nor with this: “With such tempting material for character assassination, the Senate campaign is sure to be waged mainly through sneering commercials on TV and radio, a stimulus plan for broadcasters, who are given their licenses on the public’s airwaves for free and then allowed to charge the country to have a democracy.”

But Powell stumbles into the same sound-bite simplicity he deplores when he lets McMahon’s business off the hook by calling it “grotesque,” and leaving it at that.

The problem with World Wrestling Entertainment isn’t that it’s grotesque, overly violent, or overly sexed. The problem with WWE — and with the Senate candidate made by it — isn’t that it’s “borderline-pornographic.” That’s the phrase used today by New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a variation on Powell’s “grotesque,” echoing that of Chris Hedges’ awful book, Empire of Illusion (see my review here). What’s with this “borderline” stuff, anyway? And who cares?

I’d like to hear a little talk about the structure, not the TV content, of McMahon’s business. More than a little talk — a little reporting. Her WWE’s jobs in Connecticut (which also come and go by the grace of corporate expansion and contraction, and without reference to the McMahon family’s windfall stock dividends, enabled by tax breaks) are a function of a no-benefits independent contractor work force of performers who drop dead in impossible numbers — proportions far exceeding those of rock stars or football or baseball players. But thanks to Vince and Linda McMahon’s money and political connections in both parties, and both inside Connecticut and inside the Washington Beltway, a Congressional investigation following the 2007 Chris Benoit murder-suicide fizzled.

The McMahons also arguably obstructed justice — engaged, if you will, in “borderline criminality” — decades after Blumenthal, like many others of his generation (including, apparently, Vince McMahon) used deferments to avoid military service in Vietnam. To his discredit, Blumenthal has played fast and loose with the truth about his military service. For Vince, his lack of any military service seems to be an almost uniquely untouched subject for lying.

This year, unless Connecticut journalists (including those supervised by Journal Inquirer managing editor Powell) get on the stick, another opportunity to clean up that sleazy industry will fizzle.

I say, let’s put up Richard Blumenthal’s record as state attorney general against Linda McMahon’s record as CEO of a publicly traded corporation with a billion-dollar market cap. I hold no brief for Blumenthal; that his record includes its quota, or more, of manipulation and grandstanding is a given.

But what we need here isn’t smackdown, folks. It’s straight-up.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick Flashback — ‘Linda McMahon Campaign Coverage: A Guide for the Perplexed’

Originally published here on April 12.

TED MANN, New London Day: Broward County records reveal that Linda McMahon operated an international slave trade out of her husband Vince’s yacht, the Sexy Bitch, in Boca Raton, Florida.

IRV MUCHNICK, Wrestling Babylon Blog: As I show in my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, the mainstream media focus too much on trivial issues. The real story here is how many slaves died in transit.

@jodilatina on Twitter: See the latest YouTube video of Linda wowing them at the Naugatuck Valley branch of the Ladies Aid & Missionary Society! Followed by Linda and Kate Snow in a pie-throwing contest on NBC’s Dateline!

ROB SIMMONS: When I was a CIA agent I helped coordinate several undercover operations to disrupt the slave trade.

PETER SCHIFF: The point is that we can’t grow the economy until we get government off the backs of slave traders.

RICK GREEN, Hartford Courant: Who wore the hotter-looking suit on Dateline – Linda or Kate Snow?

SUSAN BYSIEWICZ: I am eminently qualified to make legal rulings on the slave trade of the Republican from whom I received campaign contributions and whom I then endorsed for the state Board of Education, where she served even longer than I ran for governor.

BRIAN LOCKHART, Stamford Advocate: According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, it doesn’t matter.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: As attorney general, I vigorously prosecuted Connecticut’s slave traders. As senator, I will do everything in my power to support them.

SUZAN BIBISI: This interview is over. Ms. McMahon is running behind schedule for her shoot on “The View.”

KEVIN RENNIE, Hartford Courant columnist and former state legislator: A slave trader with a slick media campaign vs. a guy who voted for card check when he was in the House of Representatives? No contest.

CHRIS HEALY, state Republican Party chair: What did you say, Kevin? Linda’s check to Suzan didn’t clear yet?

RAHM EMANUEL: President Obama supports our troops and I take campaign contributions from wherever I can find them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fucking retarded.

LINDA McMAHON: I don’t remember any of this. It happened yesterday and we should be talking about the future not the past. WWE is constantly evolving its slave-trade practices. We need a senator who will incentivize small business with an independent-contractor work force and plenty of corporate tax breaks.

VINCE McMAHON: [unseen and unheard]

THE WASHINGTON POST: Poised and well-spoken, Linda McMahon makes for a surprisingly strong candidate. According to our exclusive inside industry source, George “The Animal” Steele, the allegations against WWE were dismissed back when he was still teaching PE at a Detroit high school.

DAVE MELTZER, Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Everything that everyone else has just said, I already knew.

JERRY McDEVITT, WWE lawyer: Not only have you implied that Linda McMahon became a near-billionaire – giving her the resources to run a self-funded $50 million campaign – via profits from a sleazy business. You are also casting innuendos that she may have been involved in criminal activity. I am researching whether these statements breach the “reckless disregard for the truth” libel standard of New York Times v. Sullivan….

LOWELL WEICKER, WWE board member: Stop it right now, all you ankle-biting midgets! I am in favor of health-care reform, except as it might apply to the occupational health and safety standards of this company. I have a solemn fiduciary responsibility to our stockholders, including me.

TOM DUDCHIK, Connecticut Capitol Report: Moosup police break up dog-fighting ring; mayor says “at least the curs had balls that clank, like Weicker”; click HERE for photos of the foxiest state TV news babes.

Irv Muchnick

Take The New York Times’ Gail Collins on Linda McMahon … PLEASE!

Today New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins (who once worked for the Hartford Courant) pulls out her joke book and legitimizes all the one-liners out there about the Senate candidacy of Linda McMahon.

See “Who Wants to Elect a Millionaire?”, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/opinion/27collins.html.

The main difference between Gail “Please Don’t Confuse Me With Maureen Dowd” Collins and Jerry “The King” Lawler, the sidekick announcer on Monday Night Raw, is that Lawler mostly knows what he’s talking about when he makes pro wrestling references.

If The Times wants to contribute to the national IQ, it can do some real reporting on World Wrestling Entertainment’s death pandemic, and history of sexual harassment (both hetero- and homosexual varieties) and obstruction of justice.

Irv Muchnick

Hearst Picks Up WWE Exec Sexual Harassment Story

The Connecticut Post and other Hearst newspapers in Connecticut are reporting the story, first broken here on May 10, about the departure of World Wrestling Entertainment’s executive vice president and general counsel, Jared Bartie, following an allegation that he sexually harassed another company manager during WrestleMania week in Arizona in late March.

See “WWE denies exec fired over sexual harassment,” by business reporter Michael C. Juliano, ” http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/WWE-denies-exec-fired-over-sexual-harassment-499926.php.

The story mostly rehashes other rewrites that have appeared in a range of other publications, including the website of American Lawyer Media’s Corporate Counsel magazine. But credit Hearst with quoting me as asserting that “WWE has a long history and culture of sexual harassment,” including claims “in the past against WWE founder Vince McMahon.” (The article tactfully refrains from noting that Vince McMahon’s spouse and WWE’s other founder, Linda McMahon, is the Republican candidate for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat.)

WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman told Hearst’s Juliano that the company “neither responds to Muchnick nor comments on personnel matters.”

Irv Muchnick


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