World Wresting Entertainment, a Connecticut-based company formerly led by Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon, announced plans this week to remove "dated and edgier footage from digital platforms."
Clips from racy WWE segments have served as piercing ammunition for political attack ads against McMahon in the past. During her failed Senate run in 2010, her opponents took particular advantage of a show that featured a scantily clad woman being called a "bitch," before being told to bark like a dog and take her clothes off. In another, McMahon's own daughter entered the ring to chants of "slut." At the time, McMahon downplayed these controversial episodes as symptoms of the show being like a "soap opera" and maintained that the company, which she left in 2009, had toned down its content in recent years.
In a statement from the WWE, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communication Brian Flinn admitted that politics played a part in their decision, but he claimed the move is ultimately about preserving the "current family-friendly brand of entertainment."
"Some of this footage has been misused in political environments without any context or explanation as to when it was produced," he said. "This damages the corporate reputation of our company. WWE is well within its rights to protect its intellectual property for fair use."
But McMahon's opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), appears to believe the WWE is trying to do more than just defend its brand. His campaign recently suggested that there may have been inappropriate coordination between the company and McMahon in order to shield her from what it sees as valid criticism.
"This is what Linda McMahon doesn’t want Connecticut voters to see: the sum total of her business experience comes from selling explicit sex and violence to children while laying off 10 percent of her workforce and taking multimillion dollar paydays funded by Connecticut taxpayers," Murphy campaign spokesman Ben Marter said, according to the Associated Press. "But spending millions of dollars on a political image make-over isn’t going to fool Connecticut families, and Linda McMahon can’t hide from her miserable record of promoting the abusive, demeaning, and degrading treatment of women."
The scrubbing of archival WWE footage won't prevent political attacks based on McMahon's professional wrestling past, however. Just this week, Murphy released an ad targeting McMahon for laying off workers during her tenure as WWE CEO and alleging that she failed to offer them satisfactory health care. Another angle that McMahon's political adversaries have previously hammered her on is the WWE's ugly history of steroid use, which casts a darker shadow over the industry than the programming itself.
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