As noted here earlier, Jerry McDevitt, the lawyer for Senate candidate Linda McMahon and her World Wrestling Entertainment, is threatening to sue Talking Points Memo for retelling the story of Linda and Vince McMahon’s aborted 1993 lawsuit against Geraldo Rivera for allegedly concocting an allegation by a former wrestling referee that Vince had raped her.
See “FLASHBACK: McMahons Sued Geraldo For Airing Rape Claims By Former WWE Referee,” http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/10/mcmahons-sued-geraldo-fired-employee-for-emotional-distress-after-rape-claim-video.php.
See also TPM’s reproduction of the March 5, 1993, filing in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, at http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/documents/2010/10/vince-and-linda-mcmahon-file-march-1993-lawsuit-against-wwe-employees-and-tv-show.php?page=1.
Let me say first that I do not know whether Vince McMahon raped Rita Chatterton. During that period of scandals at the then-World Wrestling Federation, many accusations were flying around and some of them were false. (One was a charge by a briefly employed announcer named Murray Hodgson that WWF executive Pat Patterson had sexually harassed him.)
However, it is clear from the McMahons’ Geraldo brief that they were, at a minimum and characteristically, fudging the Chatterton timeline. Page 4 of the complaint states, “In or around 1986, Chatterton was dismissed from the WWF because she was not a competent ring referee and posed a danger to herself in the ring.”
(The TPM story itself, by Christina Bellantoni, says Chatterton “was fired for cause … in 1986.” Lawyer McDevitt is quoted within that paragraph, though he is not directly cited as the source of that fact.)
My problem here is that I don’t understand what’s so complicated about Chatterton’s dismissal date. In my experience, when I’ve been canned from jobs, both sides knew the date. The Week magazine eliminated its sports page and dropped me as a contributing editor “in or around 2003,” but if one or the other of us were filing a lawsuit about it, I think we could look up the exact year, indeed the exact final issue in which I was listed on the masthead.
So, “upon information and belief,” that line in the McMahons’ brief raised a flag. My next step was to check with hard-core wrestling fans.
One fan told me, with great specificity, that in the fall of 2008 he was watching on “24/7,” the WWE website’s on-demand video service, an edition of the company’s “Prime Time” show which originally aired on Thanksgiving Night 1987. The program included a tape of Chatterton refereeing a match between Jose Estrada and Brady Boone from the Boston Garden on October 3, 1987.
I asked a WWE insider for more insight on the Rita Chatterton situation. According to this source, Chatterton was held over “for a year or two” beyond 1986, doing “two to four shots per year.” This person speculated that the part-time extension of her employment might have given Vince McMahon cover in case Chatterton ever later decided to go after him. Of course, such a sequence, if accurate, would suggest that some kind of incident between Chatterton and McMahon had occurred “in or around 1986,” though the parties could have had different interpretations of it.
I have not received a response to an invitation to comment, which was emailed to McDevitt, WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman, and Linda McMahon campaign spokesman Ed Patru.