Claim Check: Chris Murphy on Linda McMahon’s Treatment of Women

by Categorized: Claim Check, Health, Politics Date:

In her first run for the Senate two years ago, polls showed Republican Linda McMahon fared particularly poorly with women, trailing opponent Richard Blumenthal by as much as 25 points. That gap has virtually vanished this time around, which likely explains a new ad from Democrat Chris Murphy, taking shots at McMahon’s business and political relationship with women.

“As CEO, Linda McMahon demeaned women to make millions in her business,” says a woman in the ad, followed by another who goes on to accuse McMahon of “targeting children with violent images and toys.”

On the political side, the ad states that McMahon “would support a Republican proposal that would allow my employer to deny me coverage for contraception.” The ad then makes a more specific claim, stating that McMahon “will deny coverage for mammograms.”

That last line is where the ad gets in trouble. But let’s start with the business accusations.

McMahon, of course, was CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, and while “demeaned” is a subjective term, it’s certainly not an outrageous description. Likewise, “violent” is in the eye of the beholder. And while WWE’s wrestling fights are simulated – in the same way Hollywood action movies are – they involve plenty of pretend head-smashing and low blows and it’s fair game for Murphy to describe them as “violent.”

WWE’s current toy line is a little softer, generally marketing their brand-name performers and even offering a variety of plush dolls. But there are also toys designed to act out wrestling fights, including the “WWE Rumblers Blast and Bash Battle Ring” that allows kids to “blast your figures across the ring in this fist-poundin’ face-off!”

As for the assertion that violent images and toys are “targeted” to children, there’s ample evidence that youths make up an important part of WWE’s audience, and children are obviously the target for the company’s toy line.

The ad also says that McMahon is now “trying to hide” WWE’s record. That’s a reference to a recent announcement by the company that it was renewing efforts to have certain “edgier” clips pulled off YouTube and other Internet sites. The company specifically cited its objection to the political use of the content – clips have shown up in ads targeting McMahon – and the timing certainly benefits McMahon. But it’s not clearly established that McMahon herself is involved in the effort to scrub those explicit clips from the Internet, and WWE insists there is no coordination, making the ad’s wording looser than it ought to be.

The ad’s assertions on healthcare take substantially more liberty with the language. First, some background: During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt introduced an amendment that would allow employers to exclude insurance coverage for certain medical procedures deemed morally objectionable. The issue had largely centered around churches and other faith-based groups that objected to providing coverage for birth control. But the Blunt Amendment was broadly worded such that it would have permitted an employer to opt out of covering any service contrary to the employer’s “religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

Critics seized on the open language to charge that the amendment would allow employers to deny coverage for a vast array of medical need, including HIV treatment, pre-natal services to unwed mothers and even mammograms. The amendment was defeated last March.

Earlier this month, McMahon told the Greenwich Time newspaper that she would have “reluctantly supported” the Blunt Amendment.

“This is not a question about contraception,” she told the newspaper. “This is about separation of church and state. I just think that was an overreach and an overstep by government.”

In the interview, it was not clear that McMahon was fully aware of the breadth of the amendment. In fact, the healthcare law already excluded churches from the requirement to cover contraception, and when told the Blunt Amendment applied to all employers, and not simply churches, McMahon replied: “I’m not sure of that. I just know that the issue that was being addressed was the fact that the government was trying to force religious institutions to be engaged in something that went against their beliefs.”

Regardless, McMahon did go on the record expressing support for the amendment, and that gives the Murphy camp the green light to link her to the provisions of the legislation.

But the ad goes somewhat off-track in using prospective language for a dead bill, saying: “As Senator, McMahon would support a Republican proposal” permitting coverage exclusions. That gives the impression that there’s a specific Republican proposal on the table that will come up for a vote next year.

At the same time, after the amendment was  defeated last March, Blunt indicated he wasn’t giving up the fight and would continue working with colleagues in the Senate to “protect the rights that make our nation great.” And that may be just enough cover for the Murphy camp to suggest that the bill could come up again and that if did, McMahon is on record as saying she would vote for it.

More troubling, though, is the line that follows, which declares of McMahon: “She will deny coverage for mammograms.”

Getting to that inflammatory statement requires an overly circuitous linguistic route. It doesn’t make for pithy ad copy, but what the Murphy campaign could legitimately allege is that, based on McMahon’s declared support for the Blunt Amendment, “She would vote for legislation – if it were proposed – that theoretically would allow an employer to exclude from insurance coverage a wide variety of otherwise-mandated services, and among those mandated services are mammograms.”

Condensing that to the declarative statement, “She will deny coverage for mammograms” takes too many shortcuts. Moreover, mammograms were never the real issue in the debate over the Blunt Amendment, and became primarily a Democratic talking point, along with assertions that the amendment jeopardized all of the other specific services for women mandated by the Affordable Care Act, from gestational diabetes screening to annual checkups.

In reality, the target was birth control. And asserting that McMahon “will deny coverage for mammograms” requires the same logical zig-zagging as it would to declare that she will deny coverage for car-accident victims or newborns.

In the battle for the votes of women, affordable access to breast-cancer screening may be an irresistible weapon. But particularly given the stakes with that hot-button issue, we deem this ad – and specifically the language on mammograms – to be “Somewhat Misleading.”

View Murphy’s ad below. Click here for more Claim Check columns, and here for information on how we analyze political ads.

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30 thoughts on “Claim Check: Chris Murphy on Linda McMahon’s Treatment of Women

  1. Kim

    “while “demeaned” is a subjective term, it’s certainly not an outrageous description. Likewise, “violent” is in the eye of the beholder.”

    Demeaned is a subjective term and should have been labeled as such in this claim check. It is more of a subjective term than ‘violent’ IMO.

    Reply
  2. Kim

    Also, this claim check does nothing to label as incorrect and dishonest, the Murphy camp claim that WWE denied health benefits, etc to it’s employees. Where’s the clarification that several hundred staff have and have had coverage for years? Where’s the distinction between ‘employee’ and ‘independent contractor’?

    Reply
  3. Diana P.

    What does it matter if she supports the Blunt amendment reluctantly? She still supports it, based upon “separation of church and state.” If I were employed by a Christian Scientist, a religion that does not believe in health care, do I receive no health insurance from said employer? Where does one draw the line? Perhaps just at women’s healthcare.

    Reply
      1. Kim

        Diana: here’s an option – get another job. Just a thought. You don’t want to be forced into anything, but you don’t seem to have a problem forcing your employer into something. This seems to be the new ‘American way’.

        Reply
      2. Mike Snyder

        Funny to see the words “wrestling” and “lady” in the same sentence, but it’s even funnier to see someone try to buy a political office. Illinois used to have a senate seat for sale…

        Reply
        1. jj

          Maybe it’s better these days to buy it, then it is for Murphy to sell it. Look at Clinton’s and Gore’s net worth before and after leaving office. I think they did quite well for themselves. It is interesting Murphy is trying to say she is running for a 7 million tax break while she is spending between her two campaigns close to 80 million. And using gentleman, cigar, and Clinton in the same sentence is also funny. BTW was that Illinois senate seat Obama’s?

          Reply
  4. CARL

    Of course the Democratic Party doesn’t take any money from the Hollywood Moonbat Limosine Liberarals? Right? They demean women on a daily basis. The Pot Calling the Kettle Black. This DOLT Murphy is clueless and has done ZERO in the House of Representatives except collect a paycheck. He thinks he should be U.S. Senator because he has a ‘D’ next to his name. We already have one Slimy Moonbat representing Connecticut in Dick Bluementhal, we don’t need another.

    Reply
  5. Del D. Gomes

    If McMahon promotes the Blunt Amendment, with her proclaimed vote as Senator, and if the language remains the same, permitting employers to opt out of insurance coverage based upon some moral/religious ground (some religions prohibit medical intervention of any kind), then the mammogram statement (als add life saving blood transfusions) is absolutely correct. The unstated intent of a law need not be definitively bound or circumscribed by its design. The devil is always in the details. Clearly, the Courant has leveled their assessment, wholly based on but one line and framed within their own context and subjective manner. The Courant is, at this time, missleading and less than honest.

    Reply
    1. enness

      Can it not be bound by common sense? I would think it would be pretty easy to show whether somebody had a longstanding, sincere, valid claim or if they were just making stuff up to get out of an inconvenient obligation.

      Reply
  6. LauraC629

    I have yet to see a Murphy ad as anything but misleading. Another point that is missing is the fact that it says McMahon markets violent toys to children, not marketed…the fact is she has not been CEO since her first campaign in 09/10. The whole ad is just nonsense and it is disgusting how the liberals distort the truth. These women in the ad certainly do not represent me or my beliefs.

    Reply
  7. Jan

    It’s clear that McMahon just LOVES women. Look at her in the TV ads drifting through well-dressed women’s gatherings, smiling, making polished statements. Not one of those pictured women lack insurance, or access to any medical care they desire. Spread some of the love among women struggling to survive as a single parent, or jobless women hanging by a thread, then I’ll vote for you.

    Reply
    1. Mike Robinson

      With apologies to The Godfather Don Corleone:

      “I must say no to you, Linda, and I’ll give you my reasons. It’s true. I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn’t be friendly very long if they knew my business was wrestling instead of gambling, which they rule that as a – a harmless vice. But wrestling is a dirty business…It makes, it doesn’t make any difference to me what a woman does for a living, understand. But your business, is uh, a little dangerous.”

      Reply
    2. Kim

      Jan: thanks for your objective reporting based on your intimate knowledge of all of ‘those pictured women’ who don’t lack insurance or access to medical care.

      Reply
  8. Craig T

    Do these candidates really think Connecticut’s independent voters are that stupid? These ads are so demeaning to our intelligence that I would vote for anyone other than McMahon or Murphy. Neither deserves to hold the seat.

    Reply
  9. Lee

    High unemployment is the largest problem facing ladies and gentlemen. Linda and the Republicans are better at the economics that would gain prosperity and the jobs that goes with it.

    Reply
    1. Kim

      Lee: continued social engineering and spending on same, in the face of dwindling employment, are the largest problem from an economic standpoint.

      From an American standpoint, the fight against individual choice and responsibility for one’s own actions, and the attack on freedom by liberals and Democrats, should be at the top of the list of the most important problems facing our country. the way of life our forefathers fought and died to provide to us, is circling the drain. The press, who benefits from our system of government (for now), is silent on the issue.

      The media should simply join forces under the banner PRAVDA and stop pretending that they have anything to do with objectivity and freedom, and protection of our way of life

      Reply
    2. John

      what a hoot! Under Clinton, 22 million new jobs, under George W, loss of 700,000 jobs PER MONTH. Talk about an alternate reality!!!

      Reply
  10. jj

    Mathew K.

    You are incorrect regarding contracetpion exemption for religious institutions. Obama’s solution is to have the insurance company to pay for it, where to they get the money from? Their customers of course. In addition many large institutions are self insured and therefor pay directly for their employees services. The ineffective attempt by the president to blur the line simply by declaring that the insurance companies pay for it does not hold up to examination.

    Reply
    1. enness

      I agree, and was going to point out that there are myriad religious organizations that are not churches and do not meet the government’s narrow definition (which stipulates that the organization must serve or hire only those of its own creed — which, as is plain to any Christian, is a ridiculous expectation) as of January.

      It should be noted that the president’s “compromise” is heavy on the “promise.” As far as I know we never got it in writing.

      Reply
  11. Jen

    What is the problem? I think Linda M. will do a great job in the Senate. Point being whoever is paying for the benefit of having insurance shoudl have say in what is covered. The company you work for has this right and if you do not like their views find a job elsewhere or pay for the prescrption birth control out of your own pockets. That simple

    Reply
  12. Amanda Lindberg

    So, Linda didn’t understand the Blunt Amendment before stating her support. That speaks volumes. Do we really need MORE lazy, irresponsible people in the Senate?

    Reply
    1. enness

      I think she understood enough of it. I guess I understand the objection to it on technical grounds, but in reality I do not believe that it would exempt businesses from having to demonstrate their sincerity, or allow them to just make stuff up. Only in a world devoid of common sense…maybe that’s the problem.

      Reply
  13. Jackie Larkin

    Anyone should run away from a millionaire trying to buy a senate seat! The senate is a senior position-usually held by people with legitimate political experience. Lowell Weicker, who served on WWE,s board, said she wasn,t qualified for the job as well as Chris Shays. She has experience as a CEO of a vulgar, crass company with a terrible reputation. Why even consider her? Why doesn’t anyone say she just doesn’t have the experience? She’s a danger to all of us just like the Tea Party candidates who were elected and caused such gridlock in Washington.

    Reply
    1. jj

      Everyone should run from Murphy for trying to sell his senate seat to special interests. Weicker’s lack of a recommendation is enough for me to vote for her. Good ol’ Lowell wakes up from hibernation every few years to attack the state Republicans for past slights, the good news it’s almost winter and he will sleep to spring. Stopping bad policies is not gridlock it’s good sense.

      Reply

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