Blumenthal steps up criticism of McMahon over WWE

Democrat Richard Blumenthal called the cops Wednesday to back him up in delivering his strongest criticism of Republican Linda McMahon in their U.S. Senate race.

At a press conference to announce their endorsement of Blumenthal, unionized police officers teed up McMahon for an attack on her record as chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Blumenthal, who has shied from directly engaging McMahon, said she needs to answer for WWE's promotion of sex and violence, tolerance of steroids and willingness to lay off employees while making millions.

Blumenthal Meriden

Police officers backing up Richard Blumenthal (Mark Pazniokas)

"The people of Connecticut deserve to know. They deserve to have answers to these questions about Linda McMahon, questions about what kind of business she has run and how she has run it," Blumenthal said.

But even on the attack, Blumenthal pulled punches. He cast his criticism as questions for voters to resolve, not his own conclusion that McMahon's stewardship of WWE renders her unfit to be a member of the U.S. Senate.

"I believe that the people of Connecticut will be judging her fitness for office as they seek answers to these questions about how she marketed sex and violence to children, how she turned her back on illegal use of steroids and drugs. How even now she refuses to acknowledge that steroids can have and do have long-term health consequences," Blumenthal said.

Ed Patru, McMahon's communication director, sarcastically said all those issues sound serious. He wondered why Blumenthal never addressed them as state attorney general.

"It begs the question why in 20 years he never once lifted a finger to investigate or look into the practices of the WWE," Patru said. "I think it's transparently political. Everyone in Connecticut sees that."

Blumenthal's campaign for months has said that McMahon's attitude toward steroids and her wrestlers, some of whom have died after abusing drugs, potentially is a potent issue to use against McMahon, whose primary credential is her experience with the WWE.

But her opponents for the GOP nomination were far more critical. Rob Simmons, for example, held a press conference after The Day of New London found a court document that indicated McMahon ordered a subordinate to tip off a WWE doctor about a steroids investigation.

On Wednesday, Blumenthal said he was not expressing an opinion about professional wrestling.

"I'm not here to talk about professional wrestling," he said.

He spoke in the shade of a tree on a plaza outside the Meriden Police Department, where he stood with 20 police officers to accept the endorsement of an AFSCME Council that represents 4,000 police officers around the state.

Lt. Patrick Gaynor, who appeared in his Meriden police uniform, was more colorful in drawing a contrast between Blumenthal as a crusading attorney general and McMahon as a purveyor of scripted entertainment.

"I have my doubts about his opponent, the fake wrestling maven. You see, Dick knows what it means to be a real fighter," Gaynor said. "His opponent on the other hand, well, on her way to making $50 million to spend on her campaign, she's always needed to know the outcome ahead of time. She only knows how to stage a fight. She doesn't know how to win a fight."

Gaynor also praised Blumenthal as being a former Marine, like him. Given the damage Blumenthal did himself with misstatements about his service as a Marine Reservist, it did not appear that Gaynor's introduction was scripted by the campaign.

Gaynor also needled McMahon over her wealth, saying, "None of us out here today has ever seen 50 million bucks."

But Blumenthal, whose wife's family's real-estate holdings include the Empire State Building, is no stranger to wealth.

In June, he filed a Senate disclosure form reporting household assets of up to $124 million, while his personal holdings could be as little as $599,000.

McMahon has valued her assets at between $156 million and $400 million. She already has spent $24 million on her self-financed campaign and has vowed to spend as much as $50 million.