Even the press release for the Vince McMahon steroid trial miniseries is hagiographic bullshit

And not just in the more obvious ways...

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On Monday, WWE announced that, in a partnership with horror studio Blumhouse TV for some reason, they will be producing The United States of America Vs. Vince McMahon, a scripted miniseries centered on McMahon’s 1994 criminal trial and acquittal on conspiracy and steroid distribution charges. Even before you get into the specifics of the press release, it feels like a very McMahon kind of ridiculous. After all, it’s a fictionalized version of the event that solidified Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s victim complex, to the point of surrogates like Bruce Prichard even claiming that the Department of Justice was paying off tabloid TV shows to gather evidence. If this doesn’t languish in development hell, you know it’s going to be more than a bit extra just from the elevator pitch.

But we don’t just have precedent and assumptions about the concept. We have the press release from Monday, which is basically a hagiography on its own.

The show will delve into WWE during the 1990s, at the time Rupert Murdoch had purchased the New York Post to further his massive infiltration into the U.S. media landscape. For years, infamous Post writer Phil Mushnick regularly hammered WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon in his column. Headlines like “Legislators Give WWE A Free Pass On ‘Roids” and “McMahon Skips Through the Cemetery” eventually captured the attention of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York – the nation’s most prestigious federal prosecutor’s office with a conviction rate of over 96 percent.

Oof, there’s already a lot here.



Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp did not own the New York Post when Phil Mushnick was writing the stories that got the attention of the United States Department of Justice, having purchased it from Peter Kalikow, the man they had sold it to five years earlier, at the end of March 1993. WWE knows this: In December 1993, when attempting to get a stay on their defamation lawsuit against Mushnick and the Post, attorney Jerry McDevitt noted that federal investigator Anthony Valenti first left a message for Mushnick on March 19, 1992—the written record of it was even attached as an exhibit—about his article on the WWF that ran the previous day. That piece, which was featured on the front page of the sports section, is the one where Mushnick dropped the bomb that "two weeks ago, during pour-his-heart-out phone calls, [Vince McMahon] told West Coast-based journalist Dave Meltzer, then me, that he had let [accused child molester] Mel] Phillips go four years ago because Phillips' relationship with kids seemed peculiar and unnatural” and that “McMahon said he re-hired Phillips with the caveat that Phillips steer clear from kids." According to the aforementioned McDevitt affidavit, the WWF got their first grand jury subpoena on April 2, 1992, exactly two weeks after Valenti called Mushnick.

Meanwhile, while I can’t find any record of a Mushnick column titled “McMahon Skips Through the Cemetery,” that language is used in in a 2005 column that appears to be the other one referenced in the 2021 WWE press release, titled “Wrestle With This — Hypocritical Legislators Give WWE A Free Pass On ‘Roids.” (Well, it should say that: 16 years later, the version on the New York Post website still has a typo in the headline that classifies the legislators in question as “hypocritial.”) Yes, it appears that WWE took one article from over a decade after Vince McMahon’s acquittal, framed it as being from approximately 1992, and split it into two separate articles. (While also deleting the part of the “Legislators” headline that gave a contextual hint as to when the article was published.) Though I could be missing something, it still wouldn’t be from the time period in question, as a document prepared as part of the Mushnick litigation laid out every WWF-related piece that the columnist wrote before being sued in 1993, and none of them had the aforementioned headlines.

Seriously, don’t listen to anything Bruce says here.

But wait! There’s still more in this paragraph, somehow. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had nothing to do with the McMahon case. In reality, as noted in the aforementioned affidavit as well as numerous news stories you can look up yourself, the case was initiated by and eventually tried by prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York. I’m not even going to bother with the conviction rate part, although it seems at least broadly accurate, but barring a genuine mistake, which seems unlikely, this feels like an attempt to shift the narrative by making McMahon’s opposition the more prestigious and well-known federal prosecutor’s office in the Southern District. (In what may or may not be a coincidence, the Southern District is the one that’s been investigating Donald Trump a whole lot.)

UPDATE: WWE fixed this part on Tuesday to say Eastern District, but I missed it at first. It’s still in other copies of the press release that aren’t on WWE.com.

Whew. Alright, new paragraph!

In 1994, the U.S. government indicted McMahon for allegedly supplying anabolic steroids to WWE talent. McMahon, with his liberty at stake, two school-aged children at home and with WWE on the brink of bankruptcy, refused to take a plea deal. Ultimately, McMahon stood trial and was acquitted unanimously by a jury of his peers and went on to build a multi-billion-dollar global sports entertainment empire.

McMahon was indicted on November 18, 1993, with both the DOJ and WWF sending out press releases that day. That part feels like a genuine error since there’s no reason to lie about it. That said, it’s hard to see the statement that Vince had “two school-aged children at home” at the time of the indictment as anything other than twisting the truth for sympathy. Stephanie was still in high school, yes, having just turned 17, but Shane was two months away from turning 24 and had graduated from Boston University earlier in 1993. Either way, Vince couldn’t have taken his two “school-aged children” into account when rejecting a plea bargain offer because, at best, he only had one “school-aged” child when he was indicted. (And there’s an argument that the common usage of “school-aged” means he had none.)

Between this potential miniseries and the Netflix documentary series that’s definitely happening, as well as this much propaganda being in such a basic press release, we’re in for a golden era of McMahon propaganda. I’m just surprised that the press release didn’t mention Phil Mushnick comparing Vince to Hannibal Lecter. They love doing that.


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