T.R. Rowe’s endorsement: Proof WWE is not hurting Linda McMahon’s candidacy

Who is T.R. Rowe and why is his endorsement today of Republican Linda McMahon’s U.S. Senate candidacy important?

McMahon has come under fire over the past several months because of her family business, Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment.

Although WWE defends its current programming as PG-rated, it’s not hard to search the Internet and find plenty of previously released WWE-related content that would make even some adults wince (like a wrestler who happens to be McMahon’s son-in-law simulating sex with a corpse.)

And then as we and other newspapers and media outlets have reported there have been ongoing questions/controversies about steroids in professional wrestling, deaths in wrestling and WWE’s health and wellness policies.

McMahon and WWE have defended the company’s wellness policies and McMahon, while admitting the programming has occasionally pushed the envelope, argues it is soap opera and entertainment.

Former U.S. Congressman Rob Simmons, who is vying with McMahon for their party’s nomination to challenge anticipated Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal, is convinced he can use the WWE to his advantage. His campaign this week launched a new video on Youtube entitled “Really Sick” highlighting WWE’s “violent and sexually degrading content.”

But this afternoon the McMahon camp released an endorsement from state Rep. T. R. Rowe, R-Trumbull

Some of you who are not from Rowe’s district are saying “so what?”

Rowe is a strict Catholic and social conservative. When McMahon first entered the public arena as a nominee for the state Board of Education in early 2009, Rowe was one of the very, very few legislators and even fewer Republicans who voted against her in part because of her affiliation with WWE. In other words, just the sort of Republican you think would be receptive to the Simmons’ campaign’s attacks on McMahon and the WWE.

I spoke to Rowe this afternoon about the endorsement, which also comes as a vocal McMahon/WWE critic, California-based author/blogger Irv Muchnick, is garnering publicity for visiting Connecticut to promote his book on the 2007 murder/suicide case involving WWE wrestler Chris Benoit.

“There were two Republicans who voted against her (for state school board) and I was one of them,” Rowe said. “My ego’s not that big that I think people care much about where I stand, but I think your instincts are probably right. And it wasn’t an endorsement I came to lightly by any means. I was troubled at the time about a lot of the background issues and, frankly, I still am.”

But, Rowe continued, “Republicans have a chance to win this seat and Linda’s the best, most viable candidate. And on the social issues she’s open-minded and in Connecticut sometimes that’s all you can ask for.”

Rowe is quoted in the McMahon camp’s press release as recognizing the two have different opinions over abortion but crediting McMahon’s “support for banning partial birth abortion and requiring that minors notify parents before obtaining an abortion.”

In the release Rowe also states McMahon “will do what is necessary to get her message out” and “her successful business background is a strong asset and will serve Connecticut and the nation well.”

Simmons may still be able to convince social, family values conservatives disturbed by the WWE brand that he is the better candidate, but Rowe is proof that McMahon can win them over despite any wrestling baggage.

Brian Lockhart