AS I SEE IT - 7/08/2002:
PTC Forced to Retract Claims
Against WWE in Major Settlement
by: Bob Magee
On July 3, WWE Entertainment, Inc., and the PWBTS-sponsored Wrestling Fans Against Censorship; and others who believed in the right of wrestling fans to view their entertainment without the interference of outside organizations have won their 2 1/2 year battle against the Parents Television Council.
On July 3rd, the Parents Television Council settled the multi-count civil lawsuit with WWE; that has been fought by the Stamford-based company since autumn 2000.
As part of the settlement, the PTC publicly issued a retraction of the most notable of the charges they made against the WWF/E; charges that formed the backbone of the lawsuit by WWF Entertainment, Inc. (as it was then known) against the Parents Television Council, its parent organization Media Research Center, PTC heads L. Brent Bozell and Mark Honig, and members of the Board of the Parents Television Council, including US Senator Joseph Lieberman.
The two major claims that the PTC retracted include:
1) The claim that WWF/E programming was somehow involved for the so-called "wrestling deaths" of several children, including the well-publicized murder of Tiffany Eunick by Lionel Tate.
2) The claim that numerous advertisers withdrew their advertising from WWF/E programming, particularly Smackdown. The PTC acknowledged the fact that the information that they listed was inaccurate.
According to WWE.com, the retraction will remain on the PTC website for six months as part of the settlement.
Further, Reuters reports that the PTC "has signed additional statements promising 'never to interfere with WWE business relationships again ... never to urge boycotts of WWE products or of the products of WWE advertisers' and to remove from the PTC Web site 'all references to child deaths and all references to WWE advertisers.'"
The retraction in full reads as follows:
PTC RETRACTION TO WWE AND TO THE PUBLIC
Media Research Center (MRC), Parents Television Council (PTC), Dr. Delores Tucker, Mark Honig and I have in the past made statements regarding so-called wrestling deaths—children killed by other children alleged to be mimicking “professional wrestling” moves they saw on television.
We made such statements to members of MRC and PTC, the media, advertisers on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Smackdown! program, retailers that sell WWE-related toys and merchandise, public officials and the public.
MRC and PTC also produced a videotape as part of a fundraising campaign in connection with its “National Campaign to Clean Up TV Now!”, which advanced the notion that the murder of Tiffany Eunick was caused by the influence of professional wrestling on Lionel Tate. The videotape included interviews with Lionel Tate’s lawyer advancing the notion that the murder of Tiffany Eunick, the victim, was directly caused by the impact that professional wrestling had on Lionel Tate.
We based our statements on media reports and source information. We now believe, based on extensive investigation and facts which have come to light since making those statements, that it was wrong for MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and myself to have said anything that could be construed as blaming WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the children.
Simply put, it was premature to reach that conclusion when we did, and there is now ample evidence to show that conclusion was incorrect. I now believe that professional wrestling played no role in the murder of Tiffany Eunick, which was a part of our “Clean Up TV Now!” campaign, and am equally convinced that it was incorrect and wrong to have blamed WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the other children.
Because of our statements, PTC, MRC and the WWE have been in litigation since November 2000. WWE vigorously advanced its position that neither it, nor “professional wrestling” lead to these deaths.
WWE also contended that MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and I had misrepresented the number of advertisers who withdrew support from WWE’s Smackdown! television program after receiving communications from the PTC, some of which regrettably connected the WWE and Smackdown! to the deaths of children. As such, WWE exercised its right to initiate this litigation, during which facts came to light that prompted me to make this statement.
By this retraction, I want to be clear that WWE was correct in pointing out that various statements made by MRC, PTC and me were inaccurate concerning the identity and number of WWE Smackdown! advertisers who withdrew support from the program. Many of the companies we stated had “withdrawn” or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on Smackdown! nor had any plan to advertise on Smackdown! Again, we regret this error and retract any such misleading statements.
Finally, concerning the statements about child wrestling deaths, it was wrong to have stated or implied that WWE or any of its programs caused these tragic deaths. Specifically concerning the Lionel Tate case, recent developments lead us to believe that others and we were given, and relied upon, false information provided by parties close to the case.
The information that we were given and relied upon may have been designed to make a national example of the Florida murder trial, pinning the blame on WWE. For example, we were told by a source that Lionel Tate was watching a WWE program when he assaulted Tiffany Eunick. In fact, Lionel Tate was watching the “Flintstones” and a cartoon entitled “Cow and Chicken.” We were also told, by a source, that Lionel Tate killed Tiffany Eunick while executing a wrestling move unique to a WWE character called the “Stone Cold Stunner.” We have since learned that this was not true, nor was there any evidence that it was true.
It is now well documented that after the Tate trial concluded, the presiding Judge said that it was “inconceivable” that Tiffany Eunick’s injuries were caused by Lionel Tate mimicking wrestling moves. Indeed, since the trial ended, Lionel Tate’s new lawyers have filed court papers in which they admit that the “wrestling defense” was, in their words, “bogus.”
Given these facts, WWE was within its rights to be angry at the MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and I for contacting WWE’s advertisers to go beyond complaining about WWE content but passing along accusations which we now know were false. Because I feel a simple retraction is not sufficient, I have personally extended my apology to Vince McMahon and the WWE on behalf of MRC, PTC, Dr. Tucker, Mr. Honig and me. Through this letter, I now make this apology public and specifically directed to the advertising community that has in the past, is currently or may in the future consider advertising or sponsoring WWE programming.
The PTC can have its concern with the content of WWE’s television programming – though these concerns have been reduced significantly over the past years as a reflection of WWE’s changed standards. But nowhere in that debate, including in the correspondence and statements to the advertising community, should there have been any discussion of “wrestling” deaths.
I regret this happening, it wasn’t fair to WWE. And I say this emphatically: Please disregard what others and we have said in the past about the Florida “wrestling” death. Neither “wrestling” in general, nor WWE specifically, had anything to do with it. Of that I am certain.
L. Brent Bozell, III
cc: Vince and Linda McMahon
Further, the PTC will pay $3.5 million in settlement of the lawsuit, as well as an apology from Jim Lewis, the attorney who represented Lionel Tate during the boy's murder trial last year, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Jerry McDevitt, the WWE's attorney, confirmed the terms of the settlement, and indicated "We are very pleased with the settlement terms, and the fact that the PTC can no longer interfere with
WWE's business relationships".
Now, even after reading that...some things need to be said from the perspective of those of us who fought the efforts of the PTC for 2 years.
First... the PTC didn't just "discover" information about the inaccuracy of the wrestling defense.
They knew it all along.
Their strategy was a deliberate attempt to utilize these attacks on WWE, Inc. to raise funds for the Parents Television Council and Media Research Center organizations by (in the words of the WWE Corporate website):
"Falsely accusing WWE of being responsible for what the PTC has called 'the four murders of young children,' including Bozell's participation in a deliberate, outrageous, and wholly contrived media hoax to blame WWE for Lionel Tate's alleged murder of a little girl named Tiffany Eunick. In the Tate case, still being tried in the Florida courts, the judge rejected Tate's attorney's attempt to conduct a 'wrestling' defense in the case. In the other cases, no charges of any kind were brought or investigated against WWE."
Second... the PTC didn't just "discover" information about the inaccuracy of the information published regarding advertisers who supposedly has removed advertising from WWF/E programming, specifically Smackdown! We were telling them this between three and seven times per week with each WFAC PTC Watch.
Instead, the PTC deliberately persisted in these actions, in order to raise funds, by using these "facts" in fundraising mailings and on their website in order to solicit funds.
The WWE Corporate website referred to it this way:
"[The PTC was] Concocting a false list of advertisers who Bozell claims have pulled their support from WWE programming. Bozell published this list using advertiser trademarks on the MRC/PTC Internet web site, and in MRC/PTC news releases to create the misleading impression that his tactics have been effective. This apparently was done without the knowledge of the advertisers falsely listed.
[The PTC] threatened to denounce dozens of targeted advertisers of WWE as not being "family friendly" if they do not capitulate to his demands to withdraw support for WWE programming, and used the same pattern of false, malicious and fraudulent statements about WWE to threaten major retailers.
[The PTC] raised funds from the public through solicitations using the same false, malicious and fraudulent statements about WWE."
Regardless of opinions, here are facts to prove that the PTC knew better:
RAW, Heat and Smackdown episodes featured advertisements by fourteen companies that the PTC claimed had removed their advertising from WWF/E programming. This was referred to, until very recently, as "Good Guys". A list was compiled from January 1, 2001 to July 1, 2002, and featured after each WWF/E program airing, and in AS I SEE IT columns.
The statistics are as follows:
Campbell Soup Company (Swanson)
RAW 1/Smackdown 16/Heat 9
Tricon Global Restaurants (Taco Bell/KFC)
RAW 36/Smackdown 19
ConAgra (Chef Boyardee and Slim Jim)
RAW 57/Smackdown 20/Heat 54 and sponsor of SummerSlam 2001 PPV
1 800 CALL ATT/AT&T Wireless
RAW 62/Smackdown 7/Heat 26 and sponsor of Judgement Day 2002 PPV
M&M/Mars (M&Ms, Snickers, Skittles, Starburst, Twix, and Uncle Ben's Rice)
RAW 70/Smackdown 13/Heat 46, sponsor of Wrestlemania 2001 and 2002, and King of the Ring 2001 and 2002 PPVs
RAW 51/Smackdown 1/Heat 30
US Government (Armed Forces/USA Freedom Corps)
RAW 11/Smackdown 22
1-800-COLLECT (owned by MCI World.com)
RAW 43/Smackdown 3/Heat 25
Ford Motor Company
RAW 24/Smackdown 25/Heat 2 (Mercury Vehicles)
Wrigley (Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicy Fruit, Orbit, Big Red, Freedent, and WinterFresh gums)
Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up (Canada Dry)
Coca-Cola (Coca-Cola and Nestea)
RAW 1/Smackdown 6
Abbott Laboratories (Selsun Blue and Clear Eyes)
That isn't just making a mistake.
The PTC ignored the fact that (to cite only one of the fourteen companies in question) M&M/Mars
had run advertisements on 129 separate RAW, Smackdown and Heat episodes
over a 19 month period, in addition to sponsoring
four major WWF/E PPVs.
Even with numerous individuals citing these facts to the organization via e-mails, written communications, and telephone calls; the PTC continued to list M&M/Mars as a so-called "Good Guy" that had withdrawn advertising from WWF/E.
That... is hardly a "mistake".
Instead, that "mistake"... and the use of the bodies of dead children as part of an ideological vendetta was a
deliberate attempt to raise money for the Media Research Center and Parents Television Council; deliberately making claims they
knew to be false... to scapegoat the programming that you and I watch on Monday, Thursday and Sunday nights as a cause for children killing children via their campaigns of corporate terrorism.
The PTC and their allies never expected that there would be wrestling fans who would care enough about their rights as Americans (as well as Canadians and UK citizens) and as wrestling fans to simply enjoy the television programming they choose to watch...to fight their well-funded corporate terrorism campaign.
They never figured that people like you and I sitting at our keyboards at home would take them on with the power of truth, and give WWF/E Entertainment the factual ammunition they needed to force this settlement by the Parents Television Council.
Wrestling fans can and always will argue if they find particular storylines entertaining, or think that certain performers should be featured more often...or think they'd enjoy a particular style of matches featured more often. That's part of the fun of being a fan.
But no one thinks that someone outside their own household should make choices for them as to what they should choose to watch or choose not to watch...based on ideological vendettas and worse, as no more than a fundraising tactic.
In the end, the PTC didn't get the opportunity to do so.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)