World Wrestling Entertainment is taking the fight to Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, a move that provoked immediate criticism from Democrats and questions of illegal coordination.
In a campaign launched last night and expected to run through Election Day, Vince McMahon — husband of Republican Senate hopeful and WWE co-founder Linda McMahon — tries to harness the power of his organization to refute Blumenthal’s repeated criticism of the multibillion-dollar wrestling organization.
“The United States Senatorial campaign in Connecticut involving my wife, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has, quite frankly, put the spotlight on WWE and has resulted in some negative and inaccurate attacks on our company,” Vince McMahon says in a Web video announcing the “Stand Up for WWE” campaign.
“Let’s show the world the power of World Wrestling Entertainment,” McMahon says, calling on fans to share videos, write letters to newspapers and use Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to support WWE.
A similar video was broadcast last night on “WWE Raw,” a program that reaches roughly five million viewers across the country, according to Robert Zimmerman, WWE’s vice president of public relations. He couldn’t say how many of them live in Connecticut.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with the Linda McMahon campaign,” Zimmerman said. “It’s trying to correct inaccuracies that have been reported. … The attention that’s been put on WWE by Linda’s opponents have focused media attention on the company.”
The “Stand Up for WWE” Facebook page, launched Monday, had nearly than 25,000 fans as of around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The company plans to produce and distribute more videos to support the campaign in the near future, although Zimmerman said the costs dedicated to the effort were minimal because the company used existing staff and production equipment.
While Zimmerman confirmed Vince and Linda McMahon are still married and live together, the Senate campaign insisted that there was no coordination with WWE.
The Connecticut Democratic Party lashed out at the initiative.
“Linda McMahon’s $50 million attack machine now has corporate reinforcements, thanks to the Stand up for WWE’ campaign launched by her husband Vince McMahon. No coincidence, it looks a lot like her political campaign … except this one is probably against the law,” reads a statement from the state party that refers to federal election law that prohibits corporations from coordinating with political campaigns.
Connecticut Democratic Party spokeswoman Kate Hansen later clarified the position.
“Linda McMahon’s claim that her husband’s aggressive public relations campaign is independent of her own political campaign is unbelievable, particularly after Vince McMahon specifically cites the Senate race as the reason for the offensive,” she said.
McMahon’s leadership at WWE, where she served as CEO until last year, has been a central issue for much of the campaign. She has faced repeated questions about steroid usage and overall treatment of employees.
WWE’s website has established a special section dedicated to “setting the record straight,” which refutes several “accusations.” Two of the six accusations are quotes attributed to Blumenthal or his campaign, such as the criticism that the wrestling company is “putting profits before people.”
“Linda McMahon is calling in her corporate public relations machine to reinforce her $50 million political attack machine because the people of Connecticut are learning the truth about her profits-before-people record at the WWE,” Blumenthal campaign manager Mindy Myers said. “There is nothing that will hide or change that record of forcing her wrestlers to sign death clauses, canceling steroid testing to improve her bottom line and paying lobbyists to get her out from under health and safety rules.”