For those of us interested in cleaning up the death cult into which pro wrestling has devolved, one possible tactic is transparency. Or to use its less-flattering description, “publish and be damned.”
And for a bland blog with that goal, the colorful Jerry McDevitt, lawyer for Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, is the gift that keeps giving. With defenders like this, who needs accusers?
As a writer for American Lawyer put it last October, McDevitt “is one of the more quotable lawyers in the Am Law 100 world, a skill that apparently extends to the written word.” The reference was to a series of blustery emails to me in June 2008, during the research for my book about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, CHRIS & NANCY. I eventually incorporated the texts of those emails into a 400-part series on my Twitter feed.
This week McDevitt dropped me another line – this time turning his answer to an unremarkable inquiry about WWE’s lobbying data into a platform for a belated attack on this blog’s month-old, and unrefuted, report that the company somehow didn’t get around to letting ESPN know that its medical director had been shown the research on Benoit’s damaged brain in 2008.
So, once more unto the breach.
Let’s set things up with the full background of my retraction of a June 2008 blog item. The following text is from pages 255-256 of CHRIS & NANCY:
In the spring of 2008 I corresponded with Gary Davis, World Wrestling Entertainment’s vice president of corporate communications, with questions about timeline discrepancies. In his second and last email to me, on April 1, Davis said, “I recognize you have an interest in this subject, but why are you asking for this information, how do you intend to use this information if it is provided, and what is it that you think this information, if provided, is going to prove?”
From June 16 through June 18, 2008, WWE’s chief outside counsel, Jerry S. McDevitt, emailed me a series of legal threats; those messages and my responses to them were published on my blog.
One of my blog posts erroneously suggested that McDevitt had misled the public by insisting that WWE acted within days in the summer of 2007 to suspend company performers who were revealed to be on the customer list of an Internet steroid connection, Signature Pharmacy, under investigation by the district attorney of Albany, New York. My assertion that WWE had waited more than two weeks before suspending the talent who had violated the company’s wellness policy relied on a report by Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. Investigating McDevitt’s complaint, I concluded that Meltzer was wrong in that detail, and I ran a retraction on my blog. Later conversations with Christopher Baynes of the Albany DA’s office and Mark Haskins of the New York State Narcotic Enforcement Agency confirmed McDevitt’s chronology of the WWE suspensions. [My email exchanges with McDevitt, and with both Gary Davis and Jennifer McIntosh of WWE, are included in the companion disk. See “Order the DVD” at the back of this book.]
For Meltzer’s part, I believe he exercised poor journalistic judgment by neither correcting the item himself nor informing his readers of my dispute with McDevitt – which, after all, had arisen out of my straightforward citation of a prominent nine-month-old report in the Observer. Curiously, according to Meltzer, McDevitt never sought a retraction from him. As I like to joke, on its worst day, the Observer has dozens of times more readers than my blog has on its best.
NEXT: Jerry McDevitt plays the Associated Press like a cello