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OP-ED | It’s The Truth That Hurts

by Sarah Darer Littman | Jun 1, 2012 6:11pm
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

As a single mother (the cause of much of society’s ills in his eyes) I don’t often see eye to eye with Chris Powell, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer. But given conversations I’ve had with disgruntled Republicans, I know I’m not alone in agreeing with some of the sentiments expressed in Powell’s May 21st opinion column “Does Connecticut really not know McMahon yet?”

Powell rightfully questions Linda McMahon’s current assertion that she lost the 2010 race to Richard Blumenthal by 12 points in a year when Republicans made major gains across the rest of the country because people didn’t get to know her well enough- this despite a $50 million mostly self-funded campaign.

“If, having spent several times more money than had ever been spent on a campaign in Connecticut, a candidate isn’t known well enough, whose fault would that be?” Powell wrote. “But of course nearly everyone knew very well who McMahon was—that was the problem. Her practical qualifications for office did not extend beyond her fantastic wealth, and that wealth derived from the business of violence, pornography, and general raunch.”

World Wrestling Entertainment, the company whose success provides the core of Mrs. McMahon’s “job creator” narrative – not to mention the wealth which funded her unsuccessful 2010 campaign - sent Mr. Powell a threatening letter,  taking issue with his characterization of the business as one of “violence” and “pornography.” In the letter, Brian Flinn, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication, made a point to employ the term “malice” as often as possible, to bolster the threatened the threat of a forthcoming libel suit. Tellingly, even Flinn couldn’t take exception to “general raunch” with a straight face.

We all know that since 2008, the WWE has been in the process of cleaning up its act and becoming more “family friendly.” But no matter how hard she tries to gild the lily, the bulk of Mrs. McMahon’s fortune wasn’t built on such PG-13 rated entertainment. It might not be hard core, but judge for yourself.

As Justice Potter Stewart observed in Jacobellis v Ohio, “I know it when I see it.”

Mrs. McMahon claims this is a completely uncoordinated attack that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she is running for office.  “I read about the letter that had gone to Chris Powell in my press clippings, and that’s the first I knew about it,” McMahon said.

Sure, Linda. And I’ve got a bridge to sell you. In Brooklyn.

Mrs. McMahon retained the tiniest soupcon of believability if Flinn hadn’t cc’d the letter to most of the political journalists in the state. By doing that, it became crystal clear that this letter was a message to all of us: talk about WWE’s sordid past at your peril.

I can think of many reasons why Mrs. McMahon is an unsuitable candidate for the US Senate, but using your corporation to intimidate the press whilst disingenuously maintaining implausible deniability is the most important.

“The function of the press is very high.  It is almost holy.  It ought to serve as a forum for the people, through which the people may know freely what is going on.  To misstate or suppress the news is a breach of trust,” said Justice Louis D. Brandeis.

We’ve already had enough of that this election season. More than one major CT news organization was informed in great detail of how Senate candidate Lee Whitnum was harassing myself and another CT blogger. We provided copies of the police complaints that have been filed against her by my mother and his parents.  I have the voice recording of the message she left on my mother’s answering machine when Ms. Whitnum called back after Mom hung up on her for calling at 11:15 pm at night, not to mention the numerous voicemails she left on my neighbor’s machine, my ex-husband’s and my neighbor’s cellphone (my neighbor couldn’t understand how Whitnum got the number).

And yet, there was silence.

Four years ago, I made the CT Jewish Ledgers Movers and Shakers List being the only person at the Advocate and Greenwich Time willing to call Whitnum out for her behavior . I lost my columnist gig for six months or so for the privilege, but it was worth it.

If members of the press are too afraid to print that the Emperor – or the Empress – isn’t wearing any clothes, we might as well pack up our laptops and cameras and say goodbye to a democracy that is already well on the way to being bought by the highest bidder.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU

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(2) Comments

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | June 1, 2012  7:05pm


The press as dispassionate reporter and investigative journalists are indeed invaluable.

I hate to say it but the people calling the WWE porn sound like the same people who wanted Alice Cooper banned for his dead babies act; they spend more time listening to records backwards than music junkies when not watching movies while standing on their head looking for phallic symbols; they ended up on Tipper Gore’s PMRC; and still think kids commit suicide because of Ozzy Osborne. Calling WWE porn is just another round.

Reporting and opinion are two different things. Powell was offering a disparaging opinion and is being called to the carpet. I see no harm or foul by asking the courts to have Mr Powell better qualify his opinion. If McMahon has a case so be it. No one is preventing Mr Powell from dispassionate reporting of the facts.

I’m still trying to figure out what Mcmahon did on the educational committee. No one seems much interested in doing the legwork on that but the porn thing—everyone has an opinion on that.

posted by: Noteworthy | June 4, 2012  1:34pm

The op-ed that hurts is this one. It’s another case of girls going shrill. I can almost hear the fingernails on the chalkboard.

First, it’s Chris Powell and now this piece with the oft used and misused line: “I’ll know porn when I see it.” You don’t know porn. Clearly.

One would have to be a puritan to think the WWE engages in porn but what Powell has done is intentionally label and malign a legitimate Connecticut business that employs a lot of Connecticut residents. He ought to be held to account and not allowed to hide in the shadows of such important concepts as free speech or a free press. As a former journalist and editor, I don’t say that lightly.

As for dredging up your fight with Lee Whitnum again (I had to look her up since most of us have never heard her name she gets so little coverage), it is pointless to include this in this article. It’s unrelated and after a cursory review of some of her material, it is clear to me that more than a little of your disagreement with her could be rooted in her strident anti-AIPAC, anti-Zionist sentiment. I have not read your material on Whitnum but if it is as screeching as the piece on McMahon, then I can see why there is a problem.