In response to widespread criticism from Democrats who blasted Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) program content that she oversaw as the company’s CEO, Republican groups pointed to the time when then-Democratic Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared on a WWE show to promote their presidential campaigns in 2008.
Democratic organizations took a hard line against the company Tuesday night after McMahon beat out former Congressman Rob Simmons in the state Republican primary, accusing her of many things, including profiting from peddling violence to children. But in April 2008, both Democratic presidential candidates joined Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain on “WWE RAW“, the company’s flagship program, to deliver short wrestling-themed campaign spots.
“Hey WWE fans, I hope you’re all enjoying the program tonight,” Obama said to wrestling fans two years ago. “For a long time now we’ve had a politics where our leaders go after each other like they’re competing to become King of the Ring instead of coming together to provide universal health care, fix our economy and solve our other problems. That’s what I’m running for president to change.”
“Do you smell what Barack is cooking?” Obama added, a reference to the famous catchphrase of former WWE personality “The Rock,” played by actor Dwayne Johnson.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared as well, offering a similar message.
“Hi. I’m Hillary Clinton. Tonight in honor of the WWE, you can call me Hill-Rod,” she said. “This election is starting to feel a lot like King of the Ring. The only difference: The last man standing may just be a woman.”
On Tuesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz called WWE programming “violent, sexually explicit material that glorified the exploitation of women, and the mentally disabled.” Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan accused the GOP of nominating “a candidate who kicks men in the crotch, thinks of scenes of necrophilia as ‘entertainment,’ and runs an operation where women are forced to bark like dogs,” referring to sketches that appeared in WWE programming during McMahon’s tenure as CEO.
Republicans fired back, asking why Democrats did not voice similar concerns about McMahon’s entertainment company when their candidates agreed to appear on “WWE RAW” two years earlier.
“It is hypocritical,” said Chris Healy, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. “They were more than eager to enlist WWE when it served their purposes and when it doesn’t, they trash them.”
“They are empty attacks,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Amber Marchand. “They are trying to draw attention away from the fact that [Democratic Senate candidate Richard] Blumenthal is a weak candidate.”
When asked about whether it was appropriate for Democratic candidates to appear on WWE programs, a spokesman for the DNC said they were not attacking professional wrestling, but McMahon’s handling of her company.
“This is an odd attack that makes clear that Ms. McMahon’s campaign doesn’t get it,” said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan. “The problem isn’t with professional wrestling. The problem is with Linda McMahon either participating in, condoning or willfully ignoring steroid use, the denigration of women and lewd behavior in front of children — the examples of which were mentioned earlier. But, if the McMahon campaign wants to keep the focus on her life at the WWE that’s fine with us.”
A spokesman from the McMahon campaign called the choice to criticize WWE programming “transparently political.”
McMahon will face Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for one of the state’s Senate seats in November. The latest Rasmussen tracking poll reports that Blumenthal is leading McMahon by 13 percentage points.
UPDATE: Rasmussen reported new polling numbers Friday that show McMahon trailing Blumenthal by seven percentage points.