NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The wrestling company formerly led by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon said it's removing "some dated and edgier footage" from YouTube, prompting her opponent to charge that she doesn't want voters to see that her business experience comes from selling sex and violence to children.
WWE, formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment, said it has produced programming for years that is rated PG in prime time and most recently rated G on Saturday mornings.
"To better reflect our current family-friendly brand of entertainment, WWE is removing some dated and edgier footage from digital platforms," the company said in a statement. "Some of this footage has been misused in political environments without any context or explanation as to when it was produced. This damages the corporate reputation of our company. WWE is well within its rights to protect its intellectual property for fair use."
McMahon stepped down as chief executive of WWE to run for the Senate unsuccessfully in 2010. She's now running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
"This is what Linda McMahon doesn't want Connecticut voters to see: The sum total of her business experience comes from selling explicit sex and violence to children while laying off 10 percent of her workforce and taking multimillion-dollar paydays funded by Connecticut taxpayers," said Ben Marter, a Murphy campaign spokesman. "But spending millions of dollars on a political image makeover isn't going to fool Connecticut families, and Linda McMahon can't hide from her miserable record of promoting the abusive, demeaning and degrading treatment of women."
"The question is," Marter added, "is the WWE now coordinating with McMahon to cover up her embarrassing past?"
A spokesman for McMahon's campaign on Friday referred comment to WWE.
WWE is not coordinating with McMahon's campaign, which would violate Federal Election Commission regulations, said WWE spokesman Brian Flinn. Company officials said they'll use a third party to have the footage removed from YouTube.
They denied that the WWE shows degrading treatment of women, saying nearly 5 million women watch its programming weekly. They also said that 40 percent of the millions of fans who attend its live events bring their children and that it's insulting to the parents to think they would condone the promotion of sex and violence to their children.
Murphy's campaign released a television advertisement this week accusing McMahon of laying off workers while her company took millions in tax credits. WWE said after reducing its workforce by 10 percent in 2009, the tax credits helped the company expand its workforce by almost 30 percent in the past three years.
Murphy is not the first opponent to criticize McMahon over WWE's programming. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who was trounced by McMahon in the Republican primary earlier this year, was sharply critical of the company's content.
McMahon also faced criticism during her 2010 campaign that the company exploited women and promoted violence. Democrat Richard Blumenthal defeated her in that race.
In her second bid, McMahon has run TV commercials speaking about her humble beginnings and how she and her husband went through a bankruptcy.
"The only thing that people knew about her when she ran two years ago was the WWE connection," said Vincent Moscardelli, assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut. "This time people know more about her and she's made a point of telling them this story and she's developed a narrative of the hardship that she overcame, the bankruptcy and that sort of thing. It's possible this will play less of a role this time than it did last time when it was the only thing they knew about her."
In a Quinnipiac University poll last month, 30 percent of likely voters said McMahon's experience as CEO of WWE would make them less likely to vote for her, while 21 percent said more likely and 47 percent said it made no difference. In a Quinnipiac poll two years ago, 33 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for her and 20 percent more likely.
"It's still a liability, although more voters say it won't make a difference," said Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll showed McMahon getting 49 percent support to Murphy's 46 percent among likely voters. That poll showed McMahon leading among men 54 to 42 percent and Murphy leading among women, 50 to 46 percent.
The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.