Disgraceful coverage of Benoit tragedy

I had intended to take a little break from writing about Chris Benoit, but after watching some cable “news” shows on television last night, I had to get this off my chest.

I’m not going to say that WWE always handles every situation the way I think it should, but I couldn’t agree more with the company when it issued a statement saying it was “concerned with the sensationalistic reporting and speculation being undertaken by some members of the media.”

I think they key phrase in that statement is “some members of the media.” There has been plenty of good, solid reporting on the Benoit double murder/suicide, and there are certain indisputable facts regarding this case specifically and pro wrestling as an industry that WWE might not like, but it has to accept. But there also has been an abundance of yellow journalism on the so-called news channels, filled with rushes to judgment, disingenuous displays of moral outrage and leading questions.

Last night’s Nancy Grace show on Headline News was the final straw for me. First of all, I don’t expect all of these talking heads to be knowledgeable about wrestling, but seeing them try to fake it is embarrassing and weakens whatever credibility they do have. The way she introduced Bret Hart – who was a guest on the program via telephone – by gushing about how “he built wrestling,” made it clear that she had no idea what she was talking about and was just repeating something that someone on her research staff told her about Hart. Here’s my rule: Don’t speak with authority on subjects that you’re not actually an authority on. It just makes you look uninformed and phony.

Then she asked Hart “questions” such as this one: “I know that Chris Benoit had gone from the elite, the Four Horsemen, down to Raw. And that was a little bit of a demotion. How badly do you think he took it?” Beyond the fact that what she said doesn’t make a lick of sense, did she expect Hart to say, “Well, I think he took it so badly that he went crazy and murdered his family and himself”?

Of course, the buzzword on Grace’s show and the others was “steroids.” After saying that she knew that Benoit loved his son – which is interesting, because I’m guessing that she probably had no idea who Benoit was before Monday – she concluded that it “leads me to believe that he was under the influence of steroids” to have committed such a heinous act.

Ever since the Tuesday afternoon news conference in Fayetteville, Ga., when authorities acknowledged that anabolic steroids were found inside the house, the cable news shows seemed convinced that it was an open-and-shut case – the steroids made him do it.

Right after the news conference, the talking heads and “experts” in the Fox News Studio were going on and on about “roid rage.” Now, it might eventually be proven that steroid use (although not necessarily “roid rage,” because the drugs have other side effects such as depression and paranoia) played a role in Benoit’s actions, but we don’t know that for sure yet. More than likely, it’s not that simple. If steroids alone caused people to kill their families and themselves, there would be a lot of dead bodies throughout baseball, football, cycling, track and field and most other major sports.

The fact that Daniel Benoit was a special needs child and that it reportedly was a point of contention in the Benoits’ marriage sure seems like an important piece of information, but since that’s not as sensational as “roid rage,” it hasn’t received much attention on the cable shows.

It was more of the same on Dan Abrams’ show on MSNBC. During an interview with Joe Laurinaitis (Road Warrior Animal), Abrams was fixated on steroids. As Laurinaitis was discussing how demanding life on the road is for a pro wrestler, Abrams interrupted him and returned to the subject of steroids. Abrams also blasted WWE for airing the Benoit tribute on Raw, claiming it was a tasteless ratings ploy. Well, judging by the sensationalistic manner in which he was covering the deaths, it’s obvious that he knows all about tasteless ratings ploys.

Perhaps the worst performance, though, was by – what a surprise – Bill O’Reilly. He actually laid some of the blame for this tragedy on the late Nancy Benoit, saying that she had to know her husband was troubled and chaotic, and that by staying with him, she allowed the chaos and failed in her responsibility to protect her child.

Yeah, it would be great if life were really that black and white.

And these are the same people who consider WWE to be sleazy.

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