Coverage of the former WWE CEO's candidacy for Chris Dodd's seat as one of Connecticut's two US Senators has been picking up in the last few weeks...
Wrestling fans following the race had been curious about how she'd lean on social issues. She certainly couldn't run on a family values platform due to the content of WWE shows over the years. It's well known that she and her husband, Vince McMahon, were very close to the openly gay Pat Patterson, who wrestled for the company before moving into a top level office role that included writing the TV shows with Vince. Patterson's late partner, Lou Dondero, also had an upper level office job in the company for years. It seemed unlikely that Linda would take a stance against same-sex marriage.
She started to show her hand last week in a chat hosted by "The Day" where she commented on abortion:
In general, I believe that personal and medical decisions should be kept out of the hands of government. I am pro-choice, but I must say that with the caveat that I have never had to make that decision, and I don't know if it's a decision I could make myself. It's one of the hardest decisions any woman could ever have to make. Having said that, I'm opposed to partial-birth abortion, and I favor parental notification.
As a Republican, it's a relatively liberal stance to take, in spite of the inclusion of the inflammatory non-medical term "partial-birth abortion" that some use to refer to late abortions.
A writer for popular liberal blog DailyKos took issue with McMahon stating that she wasn't sure if she could make the decision to get an abortion in spite of being pro-choice (the post did not quote the last sentence of the above passage). The readers who commented on the post seemed to largely disagree with the post and were puzzled by that stance on Linda's comments.
The next day, an article about "Superstar" Billy Graham was published in the Hartford Courant. Graham's comments were predictable but, for the most part, were accurate. That said, his history works against him. In quick succession earlier this year, he was released from his "consultant" contract with WWE and further distanced himself from the company when Vince McMahon made a comment about how the WWE Hall of Fame is essentially an imaginary entity. Graham sold his Hall of Fame ring on eBay as soon as possible and spoke out against the company. This was eerily similar to the aftermath of his previous firing from his job as an announcer in the late '80s. At first he laid low, but after a couple years, he was called a drug addict by Hulk Hogan on the Arsenio Hall show a few years later during the steroid scandals (the context was that Hogan called Bruno Sammartino a hypocrite for speaking out against the drug problem in the WWF when he made so much money wrestling a drug addict like Graham). He sued Titan Sports (the name of the parent company at the time), blaming them for his steroid-induced health problems. When the sex scandals broke, he lied about seeing various abuses on shows like Donahue. He later apologized for the lies and ended up in good graces with WWE after he almost died of Hepatitis C and was saved by a liver transplant.
WWE wasted no time in fighting Graham. There was the official reply in the Courant story:
Jerry McDevitt, an attorney for Vince McMahon and the company for more than two decades, said that on a scale of 1 to 10, Graham's credibility is "minus 5."
He added, "He's just a bitter, angry man who doesn't know what he's talking about. ... Vince doesn't hate Billy. If there's any hate, it's a one-way thing."
They actually took off the gloves before that was published. Wrestling website Wrestlezone had posted video interviews with Graham where he commented on WWE's switch to more tame, PG rated programming. In a story that was somewhat under the radar until the Courant article a few days later, WWE sent a letter to Wrestlezone:
Coincidentally, it seems history is repeating itself in regards to Superstar Billy Graham making disparaging and unfounded comments about World Wrestling Entertainment and Vince McMahon after being removed from WWE’s payroll. His recent comments about the timing of WWE going PG are invalid and seem to be related to his ill will toward the company following his recent release.
Interestingly, please find attached a letter that Superstar Billy Graham sent to Vince McMahon in May 1996. Superstar Billy Graham states in the letter he regrets "all of the false statements and inappropriate actions" that he made against Vince after being released from the company in January 1989. Clearly, Superstar Billy Graham has a pattern of making false statements about WWE and Vince McMahon when he’s no longer on WWE’s payroll.
Superstar Billy Graham was on the WWE payroll from April 2004 - July 2009. While he was released in April 2009, he was also given severance pay for 90 days. It is also interesting to note that during this time Superstar Billy Graham benefited financially from various consumer products including a book and DVD.
Recently, his wife, Valerie, contacted WWE about securing WrestleMania XXVI tickets and inquiring if WWE would be able to use Superstar Billy Graham at WrestleMania XXVI. It seems odd to receive this type of request when Superstar Billy Graham is publicly trying to discredit WWE.
We thought it was important for you to have this information about Superstar Billy Graham in light of his recent comments about our PG rating. WWE continues to be committed to creating family-friendly, PG content across all of our platforms including television programming, pay-per-views, digital media and publishing. In recognition of WWE ' s family-friendly programming, our network partners rate WWE ' s weekly individual programs as PG. We strive to make our brand suitable and enjoyable to every member of the family regardless of age.
The letter from Graham can be seen here (Adobe Acrobat/PDF file).
On top of all that, some wrestling fans noted that a certain passage in the Courant story didn't speak well for Graham's state of mind and reputation as a great talker:
An aspiring painter, Graham said he intends to create and distribute T-shirts that depict a drawing of McMahon with a razor blade taped to her finger with dripping blood and the slogan, "Linda McMahon is a scam and is made out of spam."
As is standard procedure, McMahon had to make financial records public. As reported by the Connecticut Post, she and her husband "have at least $103.7 million in assets and received at least $8.97 million in salary and investment income over a roughly 22-month period ending Oct. 15." Her financial resources, at least around triple that of the next richest candidate, are believed to make her a more formidable candidate than she would be otherwise. To wit, a Hartford Courant blogger is reporting that Senator John Cornyn is saying that McMahon told him that she plans on spending at least $50 Million on her candidacy. "Superstar" Billy Graham claims his friends in WWE are saying the number is closer to $100 million. $30 million had been the most ubiquitous figure mentioned previously.
Unsurprisingly, she said she'd vote against the health care reform bill that's before the senate at the moment:
"I think the bill is just overwhelming, too much big government, with or without the public option...It’s too much big government and too much spending. I do not believe that this bill is going to reduce any cost, and I think it’s going to be a higher pricetag than what Congress or the Senate say it’s going to be."
As far as Afghanistan, she said she trusts President Obama:
"I’m going to leave it up to the president with the advice of his generals."
Things got more controversial when the subject of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's trial being held in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal. She wavered before saying:
"I’ll probably have more firm policy statements after the first of the year."
This drew plenty of criticism. Colleen Flanagan, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, interpreted McMahon's statement as:
"Post-Jan. 1 McMahon will know what she thinks."
Republican opponent Rob Simmons noted that this showed McMahon's inexperience in politics:
"It is deeply disappointing that when given the opportunity to stand firm against Sen. Dodd's dangerous and misguided approach, Mrs. McMahon took a pass,'' Simmons' campaign manager, Jim Barnett, said in an email. "It goes to show that slick campaign ads and an army of high-priced consultants can't buy the experience and judgment necessary to keep our nation safe."
The McMahon campaign was quick to respond:
"Linda is opposed to trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad in civilian court,'' spokesman Ed Patru said in an email. "Her position on terrorist trials is crystal clear and unwavering, just as it is with cap-and-trade, card check legislation, government-run healthcare and runaway spending."
It was noted on the Courant's blog that part of the statement was a shot at Simmons' alleged flip-flopping.
That seems to be all for now, stay tuned for more.