STAMFORD, Conn. (CBS Connecticut) – World Wrestling Entertainment’s product may be considered PG nowadays, but a pair of major characters showing xenophobic and racist attitudes toward the company’s Latino champion have caused a wave of criticism from conservative pundits accusing the company of attacking the Tea Party.
WWE superstar Jack Swagger and his new manager, Zeb Colter, have ruffled some feathers in the conservative community who think that WWE is framing Swagger and Colter as villains with Tea Party tendencies.
In recent weeks, Swagger (real name Jake Hager Jr.) and Colter (real name Wayne Keown) have talked about “freeloading immigrants and welfare recipients in front of the Gadsden flag, which has become symbolic of the Tea Party,” according to Breitbart.com. In online videos for the pair, they’re standing in front of a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, which has become a popular Tea Party slogan in the last four years.
“And now I look around and I see a country I don’t even recognize,” said Colter, on a recent episode of Monday Night Raw. “I see people with faces not like mine. I see people that I don’t even know what they’re saying. They can’t even talk to me. And I look around and I think, ‘Where did all these people come from?’ But most importantly I think, ‘How do we get rid of ‘em?’ We the people! Americans, real Americans, know the truth! Zeb Colter knows the truth! Jack Swagger knows the truth! Because this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, not the land of the free and whoever wants to cross our borders! … It’s our country and it’s our land, to protect and defend!”
Predictably, the angle has been met with some pushback, especially since much of Swagger and Colter’s vitriol is indirectly intended for Alberto Del Rio, who Swagger is facing for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXVIX next month in East Rutherford, N.J. Del Rio’s character is of Mexican descent.
“Yes, it took a pro-wrestling skit to show the Tea Party the error of their ways,” wrote the staff of Twitchy, the website overseen by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. “Thanks, WWE!”
In response to the criticism, WWE issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying that the company will not alter its scripts for upcoming shows in reaction to the complaints.
“WWE has a long history of creating fictional characters that serve as either protagonists or antagonists, no different than other television shows or feature films,” Brian Flinn, WWE’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, told The Hollywood Reporter. “To create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines.
He added: “WWE is creating drama centered on a topical subject that has varying points of view to develop a rivalry between two characters. This storyline in no way represents WWE’s political point of view. One should not confuse WWE’s storytelling with what WWE stands for, similar to other entertainment companies such as Warner Bros., Universal Studios or Viacom.”