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World Wrestling Entertainment on Tuesday responded to right-wing criticism that one of its storylines is a slam against the conservative Tea Party movement and indicated that it has no intention of reining in the perceived partisanship.
The controversy began a week ago on Monday Night Raw and gained steam this week as video began to spread on the Internet.
In the video, wrestler Jack Swagger brings his “great American” manager Zeb Colter into the ring to lecture the crowd on “true patriotism,” which apparently means immigrant-bashing and veiled racism.
(Watch the video below.)
Conservative site Breitbart.com also noted several other videos online of the pair “talking about freeloading immigrants and welfare recipients in front of the Gadsden flag, which has become symbolic of the Tea Party.”
One video has Colter delivering a “state of the union” address behind a podium emblazoned with, “Don’t tread on me,” which has become a popular Tea Party slogan. Colter is booed as he invokes the Constitution and the nation’s founders, then goes off on a racist rant against a Hispanic wrestler.
The website Twitchy, run by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, also did its part to push the narrative that the WWE was engaging in partisan propaganda by insinuating that a couple of its villains are Tea Partiers.
In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, the WWE didn’t confirm or deny that the characters represent the Tea Party, only that the storyline represented “current events.” Nor did it indicate a willingness to alter its scripts based on partisan 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,” said Brian Flinn, WWE’s senior vp marketing and communications. “To create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines.
“WWE is creating drama centered on a topical subject that has varying points of view to develop a rivalry between two characters,” he adds. “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.”
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