Linda McMahon and her company WWE haven't made any friends with the Connecticut media during her latest senate run. WWE set the ball rolling in May when they threatened The Journal Inquirer's Chris Powell with litigation when he made the offhand remark that Linda's wealth "derived from the business of violence, pornography, and general raunch". Meanwhile, Linda has made herself largely inaccessible to the press, refusing to answer any questions on the campaign trail (outside of the debates the candidates have to do) and even then she would often try to skirt the issues. After the fourth debate, she even blamed the journalists themselves for her refusal to make clear her positions on Social Security and Medicare, despite being pressed repeatedly on the issue, saying they would only "demagogue" her and "bash" any bright suggestions she may have.
So it should come as no surprise that the local newspapers have so far been unanimous in endorsing Linda McMahon's opponent Chris Murphy for the state's U.S. Senate seat up for grabs.
The New York Times praised Murphy for being "a thoughtful and productive public servant" that had been unfairly and hypocritically "demonised" by McMahon, who would seek to overturn the Affordable Care Act and would support the "infamous" Blunt amendment proposed by Republicans that would allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in their health insurance policies.
The Day was more critical of Murphy's record in Congress calling his move to vote against a defence appropriations bill that included submarines being built at Electric Boat in Groton, CT "politically tone deaf" and his "Buy American" platform bordering on "outdated" protectionism, but still concluded that Murphy was "by far the better and more informed candidate" for similar reasons to The Times:
"Linda McMahon has spent the bulk of her campaign attacking her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, through a flood of TV commercials and direct mail flyers that her fortune is able to pay for. Unfortunately, she has spent precious little of the campaign explaining her priorities, outside of repeating ad nauseam that she has a plan. The problem for Mrs. McMahon is that most of the attacks are not terribly compelling."
The Connecticut Post agreed that Murphy was "not a perfect candidate", but at least they know where he stands, unlike McMahon, despite being "inescapable on television, in the mail, on the Internet":
"McMahon is the most visible candidate in state history and also among its most inscrutable. She thrives on generalizations and platitudes. Her depth of knowledge on important issues is unknowable, because she rarely volunteers to share it. When pressed for answers, as she has been at debates, she apparently has little to fall back on beyond talking points. Three years she's been running for Senate, mostly by tearing down other people's accomplishments, and yet she has so little to offer herself. Her self-professed qualifications are that of a savvy businesswoman. Surely her record as head of WWE deserves some plaudits. But if she gets credit for the people her company employed, she also takes blame for the filth it produced, a veritable geyser of raunch that has been toned down only since she launched her political career."
The Norwich Bulletin made it a clean sweep for Murphy and continued the theme that he "clearly has the advantage" over McMahon, despite stooping to the same negativity that pervaded her campaign:
"[Linda McMahon's] campaign at times resembles her WWE business model - tightly scripted and void of any substance, no basis in reality and designed strictly for entertainment purposes only. One would expect that someone investing tens of millions of dollars in a three-year effort to win a Senate seat might also invest some time in learning the issues and formulating definitive positions on them. But in this case, it seems she found it easier just to pay someone to do that for her. Having declined our repeated invitations to sit down and discuss her candidacy, we were left with only her televised debate performances to try and discern where she actually stands on issues. But each time she slipped off script, she only exposed the extent of her lack of understanding."
The Journal Inquirer hasn't endorsed Murphy yet, but their lead story in Saturday's paper was the biggest burial of McMahon of the lot, focusing on the pure trashy filth that WWE programming was during the Attitude Era. Don Michak used his front page forum to interview Sut Jhally, the academic who produced the 2003 documentary "Wrestling With Manhood: Boys, Bullying & Battering" that strongly criticised the WWE product of the time for the negative messages their programming sent about sex and violence to adolescent youths:
"It pushed a notion that masculinity is about proving your toughness, about intimidating other people," Jhally contended in an interview this month. Essentially, Jhally says, WWE conveyed the idea "that a real man is a bully and that a real man controls other men and controls women. It's a glorification of bullying as the way men should become men. That's disastrous for the culture."
Thankfully, unlike irresponsible TV producer Linda McMahon, publisher Elizabeth S. Ellis refused to put pictures from the documentary in her newspaper, only on her website. (Because we all know children would never surf the Internet without parental supervision.)
"But photographs of scenes from that WWE programming, as examined by the documentary, are too violent, sexual, and potentially disturbing to be presented in a family newspaper, a newspaper to which children have easy access. Accordingly, "The Journal Inquirer" has published photographs of these scenes only at it's Internet site, accompanied there by today's news reports about the documentary film."
Some of the captions to the photos are amazing stretches like: "Two men wrestlers simulate sex in the ring", "Vomit is poured on a wrestler" and "Nearly naked women wrestle in the ring".
The piece came across like lazy journalism of the sour grapes variety, which is a shame as The Journal Inquirer's coverage has often been politically insightful. Not that the points raised themselves aren't valid, but dredging up this nine-year-old documentary three weeks before the election just seems like poor form to me, especially when it was making the rounds several weeks earlier. Much better would have been a piece demonstrating that despite the rating of WWE's programming moving to PG, some of the same negative messages still exist in current WWE programming; but that would require more research than phoning up a filmmaker that wants to shill his dated work.
Thankfully for McMahon, few voters are swayed today by newspaper endorsements, but in a tight race those that are will matter, which could cost Linda dearly. But as Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror posed, "With Twitter and TV, who needs the press?" That's what Linda is banking on, as she gave up on courting the media long ago. In exactly two weeks time we will find out whether that was a mistake or not.