Yesterday the Connecticut media was abuzz with updates about Mike Benoit's one day trip to Hartford, paid for by who else but Dick Blumenthal, where he repeated many of the same criticisms of WWE and Linda McMahon that he made in his editorial for the Hartford Courant in May. His lengthy diatribe yielded lots of different sound bites to the media in attendance like Brian Lockhart (in a story for the Connecticut Post and an update on his blog), Rick Green (on his blog), Ted Mann (in a story for The Day), Daniela Altimari (on her blog) and Mark Pazniokos (for the Connecticut Mirror). Here's a round up of his most newsworthy quotes from these numerous articles:
"Don't ask me to say anything. Don't try and give me instructions of what to say or what not to say," Benoit, a Canadian resident, recalled telling Blumenthal's staff. "I'm here today to talk about something that's very passionate for me."
The people of the state want someone who cares not for the people who work for her to go and represent them in Washington? The only reason that woman wants to go to Washington is to protect the dollars WWE makes -- and be damned with the rest.
We didn't get a card, a letter, a phone call, flowers, nothing from the CEO of the WWE. And who was the CEO? Linda McMahon. This is the person that the State of Connecticut is thinking about sending to the Senate of the United States.
More after the jump.
If my son did not have CTE caused from trauma to the head while working for WWE, he would be alive today and I would not be in this room.
Maybe I come off as a bitter father. I'm determined to make change in this industry so we don't have people dropping dead at the age of 30.
I'm almost thankful this lady is running for the Senate. Why? Because it has put her company right in the spotlight.
They’ve exposed the underbelly of this industry. Now that that’s on the table, people like Blumenthal … need to look at making changes.
I would hope if he does go to the Senate he would follow through and do something about it. I probably would be talking about Blumenthal if he went in and did absolutely nothing and dropped the ball. Come back next year and I’ll give you a report card on him. They probably won’t pay my way down, though.
WWE's and Linda McMahon's campaign team's response was unsurprisingly venemous towards Blumenthal for this stunt and backhandedly understanding of Mike Benoit's bitter plight. Ed Patru, Linda's spokesman sent this really grasping for straws press release immediately after the conference:
Chris Benoit murdered his family, and he alone is responsible for that. It is outrageous and reprehensible that Dick Blumenthal’s campaign is now suggesting someone else is responsible for this heinous crime. The public overwhelmingly rejects the irresponsible notion that a murderer’s behavior ought to be excused and instead someone else should be held accountable. And frankly, it’s deeply troubling that Dick Blumenthal would take this governing philosophy to Washington and write laws in a way that reflects this thinking.
Robert Zimmerman, on behalf of WWE, pointed to the head trauma component of WWE's Wellness policy, but of course neglected to mention that this was only instituted after Chris Benoit's death:
WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman says the Benoit murder-suicide was "an extremely tragic and unforeseeable occurrence."
But, Zimmerman added, "The WWE cannot speculate on what lead to the senseless murders and suicide, nor can WWE be held accountable for the tragic personal actions of Chris Benoit. The WWE is still deeply saddened by this loss and extends its continued condolences to the family members.
He also pointed to the company's extensive health and wellness policy, particularly as it relates to head trauma. "Under WWE's Talent Wellness Program, all performers undergo mandatory tests of brain function, including memory, processing speed and reaction time. Monitoring and analysis are done through the ImPACT™ Concussion Management Program," he said. "If a WWE performer shows symptoms of a concussion or has suffered a concussion, then that WWE performer will not be cleared for a return to wrestling until he/she passes an ImPACT test and is cleared clinically by a certified physician.
Linda McMahon to Mark Pazniokos even responded with her most pointed criticism of her opponent yet, while struggling to not let her public persona of being a caring CEO slip while talking about Mike Benoit:
I think the motivation is clear. Blumenthal in my view is trying to take away any focus on the issues that are here in the state with 9.1 percent unemployment. He's not focused on putting people back to work. I just think this is politics at its absolute slimiest.
"I don't remember not reaching out to Michael," McMahon said. "It would not be my style, not to reach out to him. Typically, when anything like that happens, we do try to make every effort to contact family."
Benoit said Linda McMahon suggested during an interview on Good Morning America that Chris Benoit might be have been stressed or depressed about his son, Daniel, having a genetic condition, Fragile X Syndrome. But there was no evidence Daniel had the genetic condition.
McMahon today she said she was unsure where she had gotten that information.
"We were all trying to understand what really had happened, because it was so contrary to anything that we knew about Chris Benoit," she said. "He was one of the most requested individuals for the Make a Wish Foundation. He had never been late to a performance, took great pride in his work."
McMahon said she believes Mike Benoit is looking to shift blame for the double-homicide away from his son. As a parent, she said, she can understand the impulse.
"I'd want to look for answers. I'd want to look for somebody to blame, because I don't think I could find it within myself to actually say what caused my son to do this. I'd be wanting to look for blame," she said. "My heart goes to him. It really does. The bottom line is we don't know what happened to Chris Benoit, or what happened in that household."
Dick Blumenthal believes that strong oversight and enforcement of existing laws is critical. Connecticut's next United States Senator should examine what additional protections will be needed. Dick Blumenthal will do that, if he is elected.