Over the weekend, Politico became the first remotely major news outlet since Linda McMahon's senate campaign started to cover the 1992 scandal about sexual harassment and abuse within what was then known as Titan Sports. The story centers around Tom Cole, a ring boy (the colloquial name for the young, often underage males who helped set up the ring) whose allegations served as the catalyst for others to come forward. Cole alleged that Director of Wrestling Operations Terry Garvin (real name Terry Joyal, not to be confused with Texas wrestler Terry Simms, who used the name Terry Garvin for the first several years of his career) sexually harassed him, that ring announcer Mel Phillips had an unhealthy fascination with his feet, and that booker/road agent/talent relations head Pat Patterson "grabbed [his] ass."
Rumors about all three had been prevalent and joked about within the industry for years. In a thread on his website's forum, Dave Meltzer once wrote this:
Let's just say, hypothetically, that I'm running a company where underage boys were being molested for years and it's known, accepted and laughed about because, hey, it's a world you don't understand with different rules.
Then one day it becomes front page news.
Was the owner ignorant for letting it continue unabated?
All three of the alleged harassers quickly resigned, and only Patterson (who some have speculated was still working for the company in an unofficial capacity while he was gone, and who Cole, who was back with the company, said he didn't mind working with) ever returned. While Vince McMahon initially defended all three, claiming that he was being persecuted for being progressive enough to hire homosexuals for front office positions (and for what it's worth, Garvin was living something of a double life, as while he did have a reputation in the business, he was married with children and his family had no idea that he was anything other than straight), as the scandals went on, he only defended Patterson. The most in-depth account of Cole's allegations is his 1999 interview for the Wrestling Perspective newsletter. It's well worth going out of your way to read.
The Politico story doesn't cover much new ground except for a note near the beginning that the company settled with two ring boys other than Cole (which they've never admitted before) and the end, when this bomb is dropped:
In the intervening years, according to McDevitt, [Cole's] views about [Linda McMahon] changed.
Cole hung up on a POLITICO reporter who called seeking his recollection of McMahon, then, according to McDevitt, alerted him to the call. The next day, McDevitt provided the following e-mail, as written by Cole:
"I can truly say without hesitation I’m thankful for how Linda handled my situation. Without me going out into the world and finding myself, god knows where I'd be," reads the email. The two alleged harassers, he continued, "were fired for there actions and they NEVER returned to the Company. That alone is more than most Companies would do now (let alone 20yrs ago) I'm sending a check to Linda's campaign fund this evening. She is after all my favorite type of Politician...Fiscally Sound. As a life long Republican I hope she wins."
While Cole had, in a 2004 letter published in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, said he was thankful for how WWE handled the departures of Phillips and Garvin, he was not close to effusive in his praise of the company. Now he's outright endorsing Linda McMahon, the CEO of a major corporation who, as described in the 1999 interview, took the time to personally attend his unemployment hearing and contest his request for benefits. This is yet another case of WWE not being able to read a situation in real world terms. An about-face of this nature comes off badly, and makes it seem like they got to Cole in some form, regardless of whether or not they actually did. Last night on Wrestling Observer radio, it sure seemed like Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez agreed:
Dave: I think there was some thought that this could come and disrupt the campaign and you know I'd heard of late that it was not going to be a campaign issue, whatever that meant...obviously Tom Cole is now close to Jerry McDevitt...
Bryan: How about that.
Dave: Yeah, it was quite interesting...
For other reading material on the scandals, check out this post on Irv Muchnick's blog. If you're a F4WOnline/WrestlingObserver.com subscriber, the early '92 Observer back issue archives are the definitive contemporary coverage of the subject.