by Irvin Muchnick
One of the latest lies by President Trump was that Senator Richard Blumenthal had inaccurately reported that Neil Gorsuch, the nominee for the Supreme Court, said Trump’s public attacks against and insults of members of the judiciary were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Of course, Gorsuch did say exactly that. But what I want to focus on here is how the episode takes to center stage another figure in the subplot of the interactions between pro wrestling and our national life. Senator Blumenthal is Connecticut’s senior senator for the same reason that Chris Murphy is Connecticut’s junior senator: because in 2010 (Blumenthal) and in 2012 (Murphy) they defeated in the general elections the Republican candidate, Linda McMahon, wife of Vince McMahon and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.
The McMahons spent a combined $100 million of their personal fortune on Linda’s two failed Senate races. But not to worry. They also were the leading donors, to the tune of $5 million, to the fraudulent Donald J. Trump Foundation, and they poured millions into a pro-Trump political action committee — for which Linda would be rewarded with the Cabinet-level position of head of the Small Business Administration.
With this background in mind, the public would do well to behold a couple of other factors in the Trump-Blumenthal-Gorsuch contretemps — that is, factors in addition to Trump’s lie du jour. At this point, Trump’s lies are a given. We can only hope this particular one complicates his effort to fill the stolen ninth Supreme Court seat and, more broadly, to reshape the Court, and all of American democracy, in his own fascistic, white supremacist image.
But as to Trump’s point that Blumenthal’s credibility was diminished as a result of having been caught lying about his Vietnam service record — that is true, even if it is of only minority relevance, at best, in the Gorsuch story.
In 2010 oppo research, the McMahon campaign did expose that Blumenthal was full of it, for decades, with claims in his official bio of military service “in Vietnam.” In fact, Blumenthal was safely ensconced in the Army Reserves during the Vietnam War era.
Again, the charge of stolen valor is valid. Of course, it’s also rich coming from Trump, a full-fledged “chicken hawk” who arranged a medical deferment during the Vietnam war with a mysterious case of sore feet.
Rightly or wrongly, Blumenthal survived the scandal and won election (and last year, reelection). The reason I bring up all this is that the senator also lied about something else to me — and to Mike Benoit, father of the late WWE wrestler Chris Benoit. The something else concerned things Blumenthal promised to follow through on once in office.
During the 2010 race, the Blumenthal campaign, through me, made contact with Mike Benoit in Edmonton, Canada. I had just written a book, CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, and was doing other reporting on the sordid background of the business to which Linda McMahon owed her centimillionaire wealth. Mike was flown from Western Canada into Connecticut for a Linda-bashing press conference. Before meeting with the media, as Mike would recount to me, he met with Blumenthal and asked for the prospective senator’s commitment to follow through on the culpability in Chris’s derangement of WWE’s irresponsible occupational health and safety standards. Mike said Blumenthal agreed.
Once installed in office in 2011, Blumenthal did no such thing. The issue of traumatic brain injury in sports and entertainment is most closely associated with the National Football League and the sport of football. Blumenthal, who like so many other legislators had received donations from the NFL’s Gridiron PAC, bravely took on the league … over why it was continuing to insist on the local television blackout of games that hadn’t sold out in advance their stadium tickets.
Blumenthal’s inactions on the McMahons’ WWE were, I think, even more telling. During the 2010 campaign, news leaked that the Connecticut Labor Department was auditing WWE, one of the state’s major employers, for independent contractor abuse. The timing was suspicious, since candidate Blumenthal was still serving as the state’s long-time attorney general.
The independent contractor issue was legitimate; indeed, in the opinion of myself and many other critics of WWE, it could be the most fruitful entry point both for reforming the wrestling industry and for cutting down to size the McMahons’ billion-dollar New York Stock Exchange-traded company. WWE performers are not independent contractors, as that term is classically understood, but rather full-time employees who, thanks to misclassification, are denied basic benefits such as vacation time and (other than self-funded) medical insurance.
A further argument is made by general advocates in the employee misclassification debate: The exploitation of temps, casual employees, and independent contractors who are regular employees in all but name cheats governments at all levels out of billions of dollars in payroll taxes.
Yet, as soon as the Blumenthal election was in the books, the state audit of WWE faded away. And last month, when Trump nominated Linda McMahon for SBA, there were her former opponents, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, making friendly introductions of their state homegirl to their confirmation clubmates.
In light of these manifestations of routine corporate chumminess on the part of the Democrats, is it any wonder why Trumpism rose — and why it isn’t going away soon?