On Friday, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, a Southern California Democrat, and I alternated the following posts on Twitter:
This morning I got an email from Congresswoman Sánchez’s excellent communications director, Adam Hudson: “Hi Irv, We saw your Tweets regarding Linda speaking at anti-bullying events with the WWE and other celebrities. I’m happy to follow up on why Linda was there if you would like. Regards,.”
And here’s my response:
I am very impressed that you have chosen to pursue and deepen our dialogue about Congresswoman Sánchez’s participation with WWE in last Friday’s anti-bullying event for the Be A Star Alliance. This reaffirms my overall high opinion of the Congresswoman.
Ours is a disagreement between friends. I would never for a moment think or suggest that Ms. Sánchez would intentionally put herself in any position that did not fiercely fight the problem of bullying in schools, or give aid and comfort to the forces of bullying. Unfortunately, though, I believe that the latter was the clear effect of last week’s event. Even the best-intentioned people can become extraordinarily naïve whenever they touch, even with a ten-foot pole, anything associated with World Wrestling Entertainment or its co-founder and former chief executive, Linda McMahon – who is now, for the second time, the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Connecticut.
As those who follow the peculiar pro wrestling industry know, WWE became part of the Be A Star campaign in the first place only because the company was dealing with the public relations fallout of controversial actions, gestures, and public utterances of its performers, which put them at odds with organizations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. See, for example, “WWE misleads GLAAD with their ‘punishment’ of CM Punk,” by Keith Harris, Cageside Seats, July 7, 2011, http://www.cagesideseats.com/2011/7/7/2263923/wwe-misleads-glaad-with-their-punishment-of-cm-punk.
See also “WWE’s Be a Star campaign a joke in light of John Cena’s behavior,” by Sergio Hernandez, Cageside Seats, October 11, 2011, http://www.cagesideseats.com/2011/10/4/2467601/wwes-be-a-star-campaign-is-a-joke-in-light-of-john-cenas-behavior.
There are many, many parallel examples, and I would be happy to put you in touch with other wrestling journalists who could enumerate them.
Unlike many others, I am not particularly interested in censoring or even censuring WWE’s fictional or borderline reality-show entertainment content. By the same token, I do not believe prominent politicians such as yourself or Mayor Villaraigosa should be giving WWE cover or, worse, extolling the company’s self-aggrandizing propaganda, especially during a partisan political campaign of the family of its majority owner.
And I would make the further point that WWE’s blatantly bullying ways, both external and internal, are well known to continue; they are just too ingrained in the McMahon family’s corporate culture and personal style. Recently, to great televised and dressing-room glee, the Monday Night Raw program on the USA cable network broadcast a parody of on-and-off announcer and company executive Jim Ross. Mocking Mr. Ross’s bouts with the disease Bell’s Palsy, which has partially paralyzed his face, the talent performing the parody twisted his own mouth theatrically and grotesquely, while a commentator chimed in with unrestrained mirth. Here, the on-air bullying anecdote harshly illuminated the same methods in WWE’s backstage relations with its own employees.
I think our conversation on this matter can advance public understanding of the bullying issue, as well as provide fodder for the Senate race in Connecticut between Ms. McMahon and her Democratic opponent, Chris Murphy. So I will be publishing our exchange in full. I invite you and Congresswoman Sánchez to have the last word if you will send it along to me by 3 p.m. Pacific time today. If a response from you arrives later , I will post it as a dedicated item.
All best wishes,