(Updated 4:13 p.m) A small group of women calling themselves “Moms Opposing McMahon” gathered Wednesday morning in a West Hartford park to talk about why they don’t believe Republican Linda McMahon would make a good U.S. Senator. Their script was strikingly similar to a YouTube video released minutes after the event by the Connecticut Democratic Party, which is supporting their efforts.
“We oppose McMahon’s candidacy and attempts to reinvent herself as a proven jobs creator when in reality she has profited by marketing violence against women and mistreatment of her employees,” Leslie Simoes, the group’s leader, said focusing on the wrestling empire McMahon built as CEO of WWE.
McMahon left the WWE in 2009 before announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. McMahon’s campaign said Wednesday that the group is reprising the same role it played in 2010 “as a partisan attack machine.”
Simoes, a registered Democrat, denies the allegations the group is an attack machine on behalf of U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic front runner in the U.S. Senate race this year.
“We’re not in any way aligned with the campaign at all,” Simoes said.
But McMahon‘s campaign isn‘t buying it.
“Chris Murphy is hiding behind this front group funded by lifelong Democrats in an effort to divert attention from his failed record as a career politician,” McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss, said Wednesday. “Instead of roaming from photo op to photo op and letting other Democrats do his dirty work, maybe Chris Murphy should figure out what his plan is to actually create jobs and get the economy moving again.”
Simoes said the group, which has no money and mainly uses Facebook to deliver its message, was started a few years ago when McMahon was running against then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. She said it has nothing to do with Democratic candidates, it’s simply an anti-McMahon group that educates people about her past business practices and content she promoted as CEO of the WWE.
The group’s web site Mothers Opposing McMahon is paid for by the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, but the site hasn’t been updated since 2010. No one even knows how to access it, a spokeswoman at the Democratic Party said.
“Claiming to be clueless is not an absolute defense,” Tim Murtaugh, McMahon’s spokesman, said. If the web site exist someone is paying for its continued existence.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said Wednesday that they’re not funding the group, but they’re definitely supporting it.
“It really came about this time because people are still concerned about how she made all that money and now she’s trying to pretend, or the WWE is saying, they’re family entertainment,” DiNardo said.
The image of woman wrestler having her head dunked in a mop bucket by McMahon’s daughter Stephanie while being degraded in the ring by McMahon’s husband Vince is not something DiNardo or Simoes consider “family entertainment.”
“This ‘soap opera’ as she calls it regularly depicts violence against women, and as a woman I’m outraged,” Simoes said.
McMahon marketed the WWE’s “explicit sexual content as entertainment to children and as a mother I’m outraged by that,” she added.
Brian Flinn, senior vice president of communications for the WWE, called the statements about the WWE’s programming “blatantly false and misleading.”
“All WWE broadcast programming is TV-PG, rated not by us, but by the standards and practices departments of our TV network distributors, while the majority of today’s prime time programming is rated TV-14,“ Flinn said. “Five million women watch WWE’s weekly TV programming, representing nearly 40 percent of our TV audience. Women would not be watching if they found our programming objectionable.”
The WWE also estimated that 40 percent of the millions of fans who attend their live events bring their children.
“It’s insulting to these parents to suggest they would expose their children to inappropriate content,” Flinn said.
Simoes maintained that the group of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and fathers is grassroots and not acting on behalf of any candidate.
The press conference was held on the same day that McMahon’s campaign announced that its coalition of women has grown to more than 2,000 members.
McMahon, who according to a recent poll still has an uphill battle in convincing female voters to support her, has changed her narrative slightly from 2010 and instead of focusing on her business background is now focused on her life story.
“From the first time I met Linda McMahon, I was impressed by her life story and what she overcame to get where she is,“ Kathy McShane, who chairs the Women for McMahon coalition, said. “She gave birth to her first child right out of college, had no health care and no job. She and her husband went bankrupt and lost everything, but they never gave up. Linda hunkered down, worked hard and built a business from the ground up.”
That narrative is similar to the narratives in McMahon’s 2012 campaign commercials where she talks about the bankruptcy and the difficulty her and Vince had building their multi-billion wrestling business.