By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The father of Chris Benoit, the professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son in 2007, accused former wrestling executive Linda McMahon on Monday of running for U.S. Senate in Connecticut to fight any attempts to regulate the industry.
Michael Benoit, who lives in Canada, appeared at a Hartford news conference that was organized by McMahon’s Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Benoit said he is “almost thankful” that McMahon is running for public office so he draw attention to what he argues is a need for government oversight of professional wrestling.
“The only reason that woman wants to go to Washington is to protect the dollars that WWE makes, to head off any attempt to regulate their industry,” said Benoit, who appeared at the same hotel where the widow of another late wrestler, Owen Hart, held a news conference in June to announce plans to file a federal lawsuit against World Wrestling Entertainment.
Benoit blames his son’s violent acts on the effects of suffering numerous concussions over the years and hits to the head with metal chairs while in the WWE ring. The mother of Chris Benoit’s wife, Nancy, meanwhile, has sued the physician who prescribed the wrestler steroids and other drugs, which she blamed for the deaths.
McMahon, dogged by criticism of her family’s wrestling empire throughout her campaign to fill the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, said shortly before Benoit’s news conference that the “motivation is clear” as to why Benoit would address reporters about a week before the Nov. 2 election.
“I think Mr. Blumenthal has really tried to focus in only saying that WWE does not treat its performers well, when in fact, WWE treats its performers incredibly well and it wants to make sure that those men and women in the ring are protected,” she said.
Asked to respond to Benoit’s accusations, McMahon’s campaign issued a statement that also took aim at Blumenthal.
“Chris Benoit murdered his family, and he alone is responsible for that. It is outrageous and reprehensible that Dick Blumenthal’s campaign is now suggesting someone else is responsible for this heinous crime,” McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said in the statement. Patru called it troubling that Blumenthal believes “a murderer’s behavior ought to be excused and instead someone else should be held accountable.”
A message seeking comment left with Blumenthal’s campaign wasn’t immediately returned.
McMahon said there were no hints of any issues with Chris Benoit, whom she described as upbeat and dedicated to his performances. She said she understands that his father, who has been a critic of WWE, is suffering because of the deaths, which occurred at the Benoits’ home in an Atlanta suburb.
“I can truly understand the pain of a father who has not only lost a child but a son who was involved in a heinous crime of killing his wife and his son,” McMahon said Monday morning after a speech to a Hartford business group. “I can understand that his feelings are bitter, sad, wants to find answer and would like to also find someone to blame.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)