Muchnick Flashback: Linda McMahon’s Despicable June 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Interview

Originally posted here on February 4, 2010.

In the kind of move that has led the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green to label your humble blogger “unpredictable,” I took a detour yesterday with a five-part series focusing on World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon’s performance on Good Morning America on June 28, 2007.

In the interview, McMahon desperately – and, largely, with success – diverted attention from drugs and death in pro wrestling in the days after the umpteenth drugged-up wrestler, Chris Benoit, died young – and in this case took out his wife and their 7-year-old son along with him.

McMahon said, “[T]he focus of this 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.”

The interview transcript is at http://muchnick.net/lindaongma.pdf. The video should be unearthed and broadcast alongside McMahon’s expensive TV commercials for her Connecticut U.S. Senate campaign. 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.”

Perhaps that is what Linda McMahon meant when she bragged recently on Face the State about her success “in a business that is very testsosterone-loaded.”

***

An email from a blog reader whose opinions I respect (but who asked not to be identified) points out that my book CHRIS & NANCY does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Daniel Benoit had Fragile X Syndrome. The majority opinion of my mind is that Daniel did have a serious medical condition, perhaps Fragile X; this reader is more inclined to believe that the Vancouver woman who said her late husband had talked to Chris about becoming a Canadian spokesperson for Fragile X research engineered a hoax.

At a minimum, the reader said, the Vancouver woman could have been aware of Daniel’s condition only if someone some years earlier had unethically breached the confidentiality of his medical records.

The reader is quite right that we don’t know the full and accurate story on Daniel, and may never.

The reader concedes that this does not matter much in the narrative of Linda McMahon’s scurrilous exploitation of the rumor on Good Morning America.

***

One of the odd aspects of my interpretation of the Fragile X story is that, for once, it puts me in the same camp as WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt.

After the family of Nancy (Benoit) Toffoloni complained, Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard retracted the suggestion that there had been something wrong with Daniel.

WWE flack Gary Davis then said, “I think we have to go with what the district attorney has said as being the best up-to-date information available right now.” Davis added that “we were just as caught up as everyone else” in the idea that Daniel had Fragile X.

But McDevitt, playing the role of bad cop as only he can, continued to insist to People magazine and others that “we believe the evidence will show” that “the situation with Daniel was a source of tension in the relationship between Chris and Nancy.” The day before she was murdered, Nancy had spoken on the phone with the family physician, Dr. Phil Astin (now serving a ten-year federal prison for overprescribing drugs to, among others, Chris, Nancy, and two other now-dead wrestlers), about what McDevitt termed “the needs of the child and how they would be met.”

Irv Muchnick

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