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'MSNBC Live' for June 28

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Marc Mero, Steve Blackman, Dave Meltzer, Irvin Muchnick, Mike Boettcher, Dave Meltzer, Marc Mero, Steve Blackman, Robin Leach, Robert Butterworth

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  New, late-breaking details in the case of Chris Benoit, the World Wrestling star known as “the Canadian Crippler,” believed to have strangled his wife, Nancy, and 7-year-old son, Daniel.

Let‘s first go right to tonight‘s new clues in the case.  One, federal drug agents and sheriff‘s officials have raided the office of Benoit‘s personal doctor, looking for records and other items listed in a search warrant.  The AP reports they were investigating whether steroids had been prescribed, and if so, whether they were legal.  We also learned this same doctor has had his medical privileges suspended at a local area hospital.  We called the hospital to find out what happened.  We‘re told any disciplinary action is privileged, but he‘s no longer an active member of the staff.

New clue number two.  A bizarre and ominous posting to the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia 14 hours before—before—authorities say the bodies were found in Georgia.  According to a Wikipedia representative, someone whose computer was registered in Stamford, Connecticut, where WWE is based, updated Benoit‘s page on the Wikipedia site, stating the reason he missed a big match Saturday night was, quote, “stemming from the death of his wife, Nancy.”  That was before the bodies were found.  Remember, anyone can update information on Wikipedia.

And “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” is reporting tonight that Benoit will have a separate funeral service from his wife and son.  His will be in Canada, theirs most likely in Florida, where his wife‘s parents live.

And new clue number four, the local DA saying that 10 empty beer cans were found in a trashcan in the Benoit home, along with an empty wine bottle found a few feet from where Benoit hanged himself.

Now, last night, that DA, Scott Ballard, was on this show, and he described the chilling scene that he encountered at the Benoit home.


SCOTT BALLARD, FAYETTE COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  I walked through there after the body had been moved, but posters of his dad on the wall.  Over on a chair by the bed were two toy championship wrestling belts.  And on a shelf was a miniature wrestler action figure about a foot tall.  It was obvious that he adored his dad.

It was eerie because the house itself was well-kept.  There were no

furniture moved around, no pictures falling off the wall.  But to walk into

the room, particularly the little boy‘s room evokes all kinds of emotions -

bewilderment, intense anger and some sadness, as well.


ABRAMS:  All right.  My take.  The WWE and some wrestling fans have been complaining a lot that we are too focused on the possibility that steroids could have played a role here.  Really?  The authorities are raiding his doctor‘s office, searching for information about steroids.  Steroids were found in the house.  And just about everyone we‘ve had on this program who knew Benoit well has said this is totally out of character for him.

Is it possible this was the result of a domestic dispute?  Of course.  No question.  He and his wife had had some problems in the past.  But something has to explain this inhuman act he committed.  And so it is absolutely relevant to ask why almost 65 wrestlers under 45 have died in the past 10 years.  That is a disproportionately high number, based on what we know—and based on what we know about the side effects of steroids, this is an angle that must be investigated.

Joining me now, two former pro wrestlers who knew Chris Benoit well—

Marc Mero, also known as “Johnny B. Badd,” and “The Wild Man Marc Mero,” former wrestler Steve Blackman, “The Lethal Weapon,” who knew Benoit, as well, joins us on the phone, and Dave Meltzer, editor of “Wrestling Observer” newsletter.

All right, thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, Marc, let me start with you.  You knew Chris Benoit.  Do you agree with what I have heard so far, which is that there was nothing to indicate that this was a violent guy in his personal life?

MARC MERO, “JOHNNY B. BADD,” FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  You know, the Chris Benoit that I knew was a sweetheart of a guy.  I traveled with Chris since 1991 and wrestled him probably 25 to 50 times, and I‘ve never seen him angry.  I‘ve just seen a real intense competitor.  And when I first read about it, I was in shock.  It‘s a—it‘s just—at first, it was just another wrestler that died, but then because of the murder of his wife and his son, now it‘s obviously front page news.

ABRAMS:  Did you know about the relationship that he had with his wife?

MERO:  You know, you hear hearsay.  I mean, you heard that they had trouble for a little while, but apparently, they patched things up and I guess he was—he was supposedly happy with his life.

ABRAMS:  Steve Blackman, do you agree with that assessment?

STEVE BLACKMAN, “THE LETHAL WEAPON,” FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  For the most part, yes, I do.  And Marc, hey, how‘re you doing?  I haven‘t talked to you in a while.

MERO:  Hey, Steve.

BLACKMAN:  But I mean, I agree with his assessment on most parts, yes.  But talking about the steroid issue, not—I mean, not to get off the subject (INAUDIBLE) real quick (ph) with Marc, but I understand some of the guys now take them, but saying that, you know, someone murdered their family because of a steroid rage, I think they‘re overemphasizing the steroid issue.  I mean, someone has to lose their mind and snap to go through something like that.  A ‘roid rage, to me, would be something where someone loses their temper and explodes for a minute or two, and then gradually calms down.

ABRAMS:  But Steve...

BLACKMAN:  I mean, no one, you know, commits a murder on a Friday night, another one Saturday morning...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BLACKMAN:  ... and then himself.  That‘s just too drawn out to be a quick, you know, ‘roid rage.

ABRAMS:  But Steve, we‘ve had different wrestlers and former wrestlers on this program in the last few days, and every one of them talks about funerals and the fact that a disproportionate number of wrestlers have died.  I‘m not attributing all of that to steroids...


ABRAMS:  ... but there‘s got to be some explanation for why so many wrestlers are having so many problems.  And that can lead you to ask the question, Hey, could this be the result of that, too?

BLACKMAN:  Well, I mean, it could be a combination of numerous things.  I mean, you know, there‘s the beating on the body.  A lot of guys get—you know, start taking painkillers to keep competing and gradually get addicted to them.  I mean, I think, you know, a lot of the painkillers you had—you know, played a major factor in a lot of the guys‘ deaths.  And I agree with you, there is a large abundance of guys dying in that business, and it needs to be addressed.  But some people could be steroids maybe.  Some could be painkillers.  Some could just be, you know, partying.  I mean, it could be a number of things.   I mean, it‘s a crazy business and a crazy lifestyle.

ABRAMS:  But Dave, something has to explain what happened here.  I know people—I know the WWE doesn‘t want us to use the word steroid.  I know—and I‘m not saying we know it was steroids because we don‘t.  But it is totally legitimate question to ask, isn‘t it?

DAVE MELTZER, “WRESTLING OBSERVER” NEWSLETTER:  It‘s a legitimate question to ask and to speculate on.  But again—and I agree with Steve in the one thing, it‘s, like, I don‘t think ‘roid rage is the answer.  I think that people say ‘roid rage are missing the point.  I think that there‘s a lot of things—and steroids are one of them.

You know, steroids, painkillers, multiple concussions perhaps, perhaps

but even so, every one of these things, every one of these things does not explain someone killing their wife and killing their son.  I mean, there‘s millions of people in this world on steroids that don‘t kill their wife and their son.  And I‘m not trying to defend steroids or pro wrestling or anything...


ABRAMS:  The problem with that argument is...


ABRAMS:  The problem with that argument is we hear in every case where someone beats their wife and then they‘re charged with murder, and they always say, Well, come on, there are a lot of people who‘ve beaten their wives...


MELTZER:  I understand what you‘re saying.  I think that there‘s—I think this case is very, very complex case of a guy who—that a lot of people thought they knew and very, very few people knew and—look, some of the few people who did die in a very short period of time...


ABRAMS:  Mark...

MELTZER:  I think he was going through massive—I think he was going through massive depression.

ABRAMS:  Well, Marc, let me ask...


ABRAMS:  Yes, let me ask Marc Mero.  And Marc—all right, so it‘s possible that this is a guy who people didn‘t understand well, but that would suggest that this was long-term depression or something that he was battling over time.  Do you buy it?

MERO:  You know what?  I never seen that side of Chris.  The—you know, the steroids is a small slice of a much bigger pie here.  Like Steve alluded to, the painkillers that we‘re on to make all the shows because of all the injuries—I‘ve had eight surgeries, total reconstruction of my knee, my shoulders, my elbows.  I knew what it was like to do 250 cities a year, being on the road for 300 days, the pressure of trying to keep those few spots that are available on television.  Remember, you have about eight to twelve spots available, but you have thousands of guys who are ready to step in and take your place.

And let me just say something.  I have (INAUDIBLE) -- I have 25 wrestlers that I have wrestled in the ring, 25 of them that are no longer with us, and three ladies, Miss Elizabeth (ph), Sensational Sherry (ph) and, of course...

ABRAMS:  But what‘s the explanation, Marc?  What happened?

MERO:  We see all these heart attack, heart attack...

ABRAMS:  What does that mean?  Is it really a—I mean, is there something that led to the heart attack?  Could it be steroids?

MERO:  It‘s the wrestling industry, as far as the pressure of looking great on TV, which includes the steroids.  It‘s making all the shows, which is the uppers, sleeping at night, the downers, the pain medication that you‘re on.  All these things attribute to people that are losing their life much too early.  There‘s got to be a regulation.  If this—in basketball, football, hockey, this ever happened, you‘d be screaming from the rafters.  We‘d see it every single day until somebody did something.  Why isn‘t anybody doing anything with professional wrestling?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a—let me take a quick break here.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.  We‘re going to have some more breaking details in this case in the next half an hour.

Up next: The WWE alerted police before the bodies were discovered.  Now WWE chairman Vince McMahon is answering some tough questions about what he knew when.  Plus...


VINCE MCMAHON, WWE CHAIRMAN:  This is not an act of rage, it‘s an act of deliberation when you do something like this over three days.  It‘s not an act of rage, be it steroid rage or ‘roid rage or whatever it‘s called or any other rage.


ABRAMS:  McMahon dismisses speculation about ‘roid rage.  Our wrestling panel weighs in on McMahon‘s comments and gives us the real deal, coming up.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Authorities are investigating what role, if any, steroids played in the gruesome murders of Chris Benoit‘s family, but there‘s one man who seems pretty sure steroids had nothing to do with the case.  The WWE chairman, Vince McMahon, in an exclusive interview today with NBC‘s Meredith Vieira, he said the timeline of events points to something other than so-called ‘roid rage.


VINCE MCMAHON, WWE CHAIRMAN:  It was very much unlike Chris not to make live events.  He...

MEREDITH VIEIRA, “TODAY”:  And that was on Saturday, correct?

MCMAHON:  Yes, that‘s correct.  And from there, our office contacted Chris to try and rearrange flights and things of that nature so that he would come in on Sunday for the pay-per-view, and actually late that Saturday night, in to the pay-per-view in Texas.  And that was the last we heard of him.

The flight was changed, and obviously, when he didn‘t show up on Sunday, we knew that there was something drastically wrong because his MO was definitely to make all of his engagements.  He was a consummate professional from a business standpoint.  So we knew something was really wrong.  His friends could not contact him.  He was not answering the phone.  So that‘s why we sent the authorities over to investigate.

VIEIRA:  But he apparently was contacting friends through text-messaging.

MCMAHON:  There were two text messages.  Two—two of his friends early, early Sunday morning, at, like, 3:00 or 4:00 o‘clock in the morning, that were very strange.  Hence another reason to contact the authorities.  But it was things of, like, The side door‘s open...


MCMAHON:  ... things of that nature, and the dogs are corralled in the pool—very strange.

VIEIRA:  Were you the one, the person who contacted the police?


VIEIRA:  What was your involvement?

MCMAHON:  No, my involvement was overseeing and just wondering what was going on, Let‘s get to the bottom of it.

VIEIRA:  Well, when police got to the home, they found Chris Benoit‘s body, his wife‘s body and his child‘s body.  They also found steroids in the home.  And when asked by reporters if the steroids could have played any part in the murder-suicide, the DA, Scott Ballard, said, quote, “We don‘t know yet.  This is one of the things that we‘ll will be looking at.”  And yet almost immediately after, the WWE comes out with a statement saying steroids, quote, “were not and could not be related to the cause of death.”

How could you possibly know that?  The report, the toxicology reports are out.  They‘re not going to come back for several weeks.  So how can you so definitively say steroids played no part?

MCMAHON:  Well, we didn‘t say that.  And that‘s...

VIEIRA:  That‘s a quote.

MCMAHON:  I understand.  And our reaction, by the way, was to—reacting to the hysteria of the media, which quite naturally, they want to get to the bottom of this, as we do.  You know, what...

VIEIRA:  But Mr. McMahon, the quote is, “were not and couldn‘t”—

“steroids were not and could not be related to the cause of death.”  That‘s very specific.

MCMAHON:  It‘s very specific, but it was relating to the word rage because of the steroid rage that everyone was using.  And obviously, this is not an act of rage, it‘s an act of deliberation when you do something like this over three days.  It‘s not an act of rage, be it steroid rage or ‘roid rage or whatever it‘s called, or any other rage.  That‘s what we were referring to.  There‘s no way, quite frankly, that we and/or the media—it‘s all speculation until the toxicology reports come back.  It‘s all speculation.

VIEIRA:  But because it‘s all speculation, I‘m guessing, why were you so clear in saying you did not believe that steroids played a part?  Steroids were found in the house, again.  He has a history of violence, by his own wife‘s account.  And steroid use can also cause depression and paranoia, and that can also lead people to do crazy things.  Doesn‘t have to be rage alone.

MCMAHON:  Right.  I agree was that.  There were a number of prescription medications, as well, found in the house, and whether or not they had anything to do with this behavior, who knows, and whether or not there were other aspects involved in his life that had something to do with this behavior.  Hopefully, we can find out in some way.  This has been so devastating as a—as a father and a grandfather and a father figure to all those associated with our brand, this is not what we‘re about.


ABRAMS:  All right, my take.  Rather than talking about the media hysteria, I would think that Mr. McMahon would be apologizing for the WWE media extravaganza celebrating Benoit the night the bodies were discovered.  Sure, he may not have known that Benoit killed his wife and child at the time.  I‘m sure he didn‘t.  But he still—we still haven‘t heard the words that—I‘m sorry.

Marc Mero, former WWE wrestler, I mean, don‘t you think—why do you think, real quick, Vince McMahon won‘t just say, Hey, look, we blew it here early on in the investigation, and now we need to get to the bottom of it?

MERO:  Well, WWE is a publicly traded company.  Vince has got to put the proper spin on this whole situation.  You know, there‘s so many wrestlers that have been involved in so many horrific things in professional wrestling, that have died much too young, and now not just died this time but murder his wife and a beautiful little 7-year-old boy.  There‘s got to be some type of accountability from the WWE, as far as, you know, Hey, I‘m sorry.  You give the guy a three-hour tribute before you even know what happened...

ABRAMS:  I agree with you.  I agree with you.

MERO:  And now you‘re speculating that there is not going to be—that steroids were not involved in this whole murder-suicide.

ABRAMS:  I agree with you.  And since the story broke, WWE stock price is down.  Apparently, McMahon himself has lost $21 million in personal stock, according to “The New York Post.”

All right, the rest of our team is going to—the rest of our team‘s going to weigh in on McMahon‘s comments after the break.  We‘re also going to get an update on the latest information that we have.  We‘re going to hear more from McMahon also on why so many wrestlers seem to die young.  All that‘s coming up.



MCMAHON:  We‘re entertainers.  We entertain people all over the world and we put smiles on faces.  That‘s our job description, not something like this, to be painted and smeared with this.  It‘s no different than a postal worker.  You still use the post office, but obviously, there‘s been problems there, too.  There are problems everywhere.


ABRAMS:  And the question now, of course, is what led Chris Benoit to kill both his 7-year-old son, Daniel, and his wife, Nancy?  The investigation is ongoing.  The DA was on this program last night saying that they are certain that the wife was killed first, and they believe that the son was killed the next day.

Irvin Muchnick joins us now on the phone, the author of “Wrestling Babylon.”  Thanks for joining us.  You know, the investigation seems to have everything in order.  The prosecutors, the investigators, seem to believe they know what happened.  The question is why?  What do you make of the fact that there was this raid on the doctor who had prescribed some drugs for Benoit?

IRVIN MUCHNICK, AUTHOR, “WRESTLING BABYLON”:  Dan, there‘s going to be no end as the feeding frenzy proceeds to new angles to this story.  And it‘s not going to surprise anyone that Benoit had steroids or was mixed up in all kinds of chemicals, some of which we haven‘t even discussed yet.

I think the other members of your panel have ably talked about all the various ingredients that go into this lethal cocktail, except maybe for one, money.  Wrestling—I‘ve been covering unnecessary deaths in wrestling for more than 20 years, and as is documented in my book.  And this is a little carnival demi-mode (SIC) that has morphed over the last quarter of a century...

ABRAMS:  Marc Mero...

MUCHNICK:  ... with international merchandising juggernaut.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Marc Mero, he was—he was tested negative on April 10 for steroids.  How significant is that?  Does that mean that he was not taking steroids?

MERO:  I don‘t know.  That‘s a tough one.  You know, I‘ll tell you, I was with WWE for over three years.  I was tested on a couple of occasions.  To pass the test wasn‘t—you know, there was guys that were getting by passing tests, and you know, they—they didn‘t always have a doctor watch you urinate in the cup.

ABRAMS:  Did you ever pass the test when you had been taking steroids?

MERO:  Not with WWE.

ABRAMS:  But at some point in your life, I mean...

MERO:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  So you did.  So you were able to pass the test, even though you had been taking steroids and—what, by just cheating, by urinating into—getting someone else to urinate in a cup or something?

MERO:  You know, to be honest with you, I really don‘t know how it happened, as far as in WCW.  I—you know, the doctor did not watch me urinate.  We used to put Visine in the urine.  Then it‘d come back that it was—the test was messed up.  So there was—there was other ways to get by it.  But (INAUDIBLE) that test has gotten more stringent, which, you know, I applaud the industry for doing more and more of it.


MERO:  But I—it‘s hard to say.  I wasn‘t there, so I don‘t know...

ABRAMS:  Understood.  Understood.  Steve Blackman...

MERO:  But the thing is, is that when you see a guy on television, you can tell when a guy‘s jacked up.

ABRAMS:  Well, Steve Blackman, you know, what do you make of the fact that he tested negative on April the 10th?

BLACKMAN:  I mean, it‘s possible, like Marc (INAUDIBLE) He could have been altering the drug, or maybe he was off at that time.  But I mean, I need to clarify one thing.  Not everyone jacked up on TV is on steroids.  I mean, I got accused of taking them constantly, and I absolutely never took any steroids the whole time I wrestled with WWF.  Since then, nothing.  I had an allergic reaction to that stuff in ‘89, when I had a separated shoulder and I got it from a doctor.  I had an allergic reaction to cortisone (INAUDIBLE) steroids.  Not everyone out there is.

I just want to say one other thing.  I mean, you know, yes, we live in pain out there, but no one‘s forcing painkillers down your throat.


BLACKMAN:  I mean, no one‘s coming up and telling you to take steroids.  It‘s an adult choice.

ABRAMS:  And you knew Benoit...

MERO:  But there‘s—but there‘s—there‘s...

ABRAMS:  Did you—did you know...


ABRAMS:  Steve, did you know whether Benoit was taking steroids?  Do you know?  Or I assume you didn‘t know.

BLACKMAN:  I mean, did I witness him?  No.  I‘m not saying he wasn‘t, but I mean, I never actually sat there and watched him take them, no.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let me take a quick break.  Everyone‘s going to be coming back in a minute.  We‘re going to get a update on some late-breaking details on the investigation, plus more from WWE chairman Vince McMahon.


MCMAHON:  We‘re not trying to hide from the fact that we are who we are or that Benoit a part of our organization.  Unfortunately, he was.  There was no way of telling this man was a monster.


ABRAMS:  And later: Was it me, or did Larry King seem to hit it off with Paris Hilton, like, really hit it off?


PARIS HILTON, “THE SIMPLE LIFE”:  I consider you an icon and I really respect you, and it‘s an honor for me to be here today.




ABRAMS:  Coming up, Paris Hilton says she got a raw deal.  We compare her comments to that of real convicts interviewed during our “Lockup” series. 

But first, new developments in the double murder-suicide case involving pro-wrestler Chris Benoit.  NBC‘s Mike Boettcher is live in Atlanta with the latest details. 

Hey, Mike, what do we know? 

MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, late last night, the Drug Enforcement Administration and also county sheriffs from Carroll County, Georgia, and from Fayette County, Georgia, raided the office of Dr.  Phil Astin III, who was the private physician for Chris Benoit.  Now, this physician told the Associated Press that he saw Benoit on Friday before the murders and he looked OK.  He said he‘d been treating him for low testosterone levels, but he would not reveal what kinds of drugs he‘d given to them. 

We do know that the DEA and the local sheriffs confiscated computers, presumably looking for his prescription records for Benoit.  That will be something of great interest to those sheriffs.  One other interesting fact about this physician, he was fined $500 by the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners for failing to report that, in 2001, he had been suspended from a local clinic there for issues of character.  We‘re not sure what those issues were. 

ABRAMS:  Mike, now, what about this Wikipedia stuff?  I mean, this is kind of amazing that Wikipedia is confirming that, before the bodies were found, someone had updated Benoit‘s page? 

BOETTCHER:  Yes, 12 to 14 hours before, actually at 12:01 a.m. Dan, that page was updated to say that Benoit could not attend that Saturday night “Vengeance” match because of the death of his wife.  Now, no one knew anything about the murders at that time except presumably Benoit himself.  Now, the internet protocol address was through Stamford, Connecticut, which is the headquarters for the WWE.  Perhaps he could have connected—Benoit could have connected into the server in Stamford and offered his own encyclopedia entry, but, boy, that is really bizarre, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike Boettcher, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Let me just, real quick, before we go to more of the tape of Vince McMahon‘s interview, let me ask Dave Meltzer.

Dave, do you know anything about this updated Wikipedia page? 

DAVE MELTZER, WRESTLING OBSERVER NEWSLETTER:  Believe it or not, this is a very strange thing.  And that‘s actually a non-story, because what happened was—and it‘s the craziest thing in the world—but there was a WWE chat that went on during the Pay-Per-View on Sunday.  And at about—I think it was at 8:41 p.m., after Chris Benoit‘s match that didn‘t happen, because he didn‘t show up, someone goes, you know, “What happened?  How come Chris Benoit isn‘t there?”  And somebody on the chat line just goes, “It‘s because his wife died.” 

OK, and then people start going like, “Well, how do you know?  How do you know?”  And he said “Meltzer said it,” which is me.  And “Meltzer said it” is the code word whenever people make up stories on chat lines or in both professional wrestling and in mixed martial arts.  They always say, “Meltzer said it,” because it‘s supposed to give it instant credibility, but so often it‘s completely made up.  In this case, it was made up.

And I would say—I‘m almost certain that what happened was somebody saw that chat line, tried to update Wikipedia, the Wikipedia people took it down, and then another person, who probably—you know, because this thing spread so quick, did the same thing.  And as it turned out, that‘s actually what happened.

But, no, I‘ve already been questioned today on, “Did Chris call you?”  And the fact is, I didn‘t know.  I didn‘t know until—I knew at 3:00 on Monday, is when I found out. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  Anything about the text messages?  I mean, remember, he had apparently sent some text messages saying...

MELTZER:  He sent text messages to a couple WWE wrestlers that were friends of his.  And they were very weird, and that was on Sunday at 3:00 a.m.


ABRAMS:  Could that have been connected, Dave?  Dave, could that have been connected, because he talked about his wife being ill, et cetera?  Could that be somehow connected to what was said? 

MELTZER:  It‘s not to the Wikipedia thing, but, I mean, as far like—

I think the text messages were probably he wanted someone to find him right away.  I don‘t know what it was.  Obviously, he‘d lost his mind completely, but it was a last-ditch cry for help.  And, obviously, he was still alive.  I don‘t know—you know, I don‘t know what he was thinking.  How can you get into the head of a guy who went mad?  And that‘s what he did.  And, you know, I mean, the whole thing is just—it‘s such a tragedy. 

ABRAMS:  And, Dave, that‘s really unbelievable, your explanation there about the Wikipedia.  We‘ll talk about all of this more in a minute. 

One person that was watching the double-murder investigation very closely is WWE chairman Vince McMahon.  Today he defended his organization against charges that pro wrestling fosters a culture of drug and alcohol abuse and said, in essence, that they‘re in no way responsible, even though a disproportionately high number of young wrestlers have died in the past 10 years.  Here‘s more of that exclusive interview from “Today.” 


VINCE MCMAHON, CHAIRMAN, WWE:  There was no indication whatsoever that this man could possibly turn into this monster and do what he did.  And, again, we want to know the answers just like everyone else.  Steroids may or may not have had something to do with this.  Other prescription drugs, other pressures, in terms of his son and his wife, I don‘t know, and some of this perhaps we‘ll never know.  But hopefully we can put it to bed as best we possibly can and determine once we have real evidence, in terms of the toxicology reports. 

MEREDITH VIEIRA, HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  But there‘s long been a history of suspected steroid use when it comes to pro wrestlers.  How do you police these wrestlers? 

MCMAHON:  Well, the way we do it now, back in February of last year, we instituted a wellness policy that, not only policies steroids, but prescription drugs, or I should say the abuse of prescription drugs...

VIEIRA:  Is that just essentially blood tests that you administer or...

MCMAHON:  No, it‘s urine test, blood test, things of that nature, to determine all these factors, as well as we instituted, as well, cardiovascular aspect, in terms of heart disease or heart failure.  So it‘s a very comprehensive test.  It was put into place back in February.  And the last test that Chris Benoit took of a random nature was in April, which he was totally negative. 

That doesn‘t mean that he wasn‘t taking prescription medication and perhaps even steroids when this happened.  We don‘t know.  Whether or not that had an adverse effect on his behavior is going to be determined by people far more important than I am. 

VIEIRA:  And yet you talk about your business being tainted.  At the same time, it seems like early death is almost an occupational hazard when it comes to pro wrestling.  Sixty wrestlers under the age of 65 have died since 1985, some because of steroid use or suspected steroid use.  You have wrestlers being interviewed that talk about being addicted to painkillers and alcohol.  You make tons of money off these people.  What is your responsibility to them and, not just to them, but to their families?  It‘s not just Chris Benoit who‘s dead.  It‘s his wife and it‘s his 7-year-old child. 

MCMAHON:  No question about that.  We‘ve had five individuals during the course of—since we‘ve been in business who passed away that were under contract to us.  I can‘t speak to all the rest of these individuals you‘re making reference to, and don‘t even know if that‘s true, nor do you.  But aside from that, aside from that, we‘ve had five on our watch.

VIEIRA:  It‘s disingenuous to say that you don‘t believe that there is suspected steroid use within the wrestling community...

MCMAHON:  No, I didn‘t—did you hear me say that, Meredith?

VIEIRA:  ... and use of painkillers.  Well, what are you saying then, sir?  I‘m not sure what I understand what you‘re saying.

MCMAHON:  What I‘m saying is that, of these individuals and this number you‘re throwing out, I can only speak to five individuals who have passed away who were under contract to us.  One was Chris Benoit by suicide; another was an accident with Owen Hart; and three of heart failure.  I can only speak to those five.

VIEIRA:  If it turns out, Mr. McMahon, that...


ABRAMS:  All right, Marc Mero, what do you make of that? 

MARC MERO, FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  Vince McMahon, you can‘t change what you don‘t acknowledge.  He‘s got to acknowledge that there is a problem in professional wrestling.  There‘s not other sports that are going through this.  At the extent of professional wrestling, something needs to be done.  It‘s got to be regulated.

ABRAMS:  Steve Blackman? 

STEVE BLACKMAN, FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  You want my opinion on that?


BLACKMAN:  Well, I mean, yes, they need to keep doing the testing and try to keep it regulated.  But, I mean, you know, of course Vince is going to speak like that.  I mean, it‘s just unwanted publicity.  I mean, baseball doesn‘t want it; football doesn‘t want it.  It just so happened, you know, now, this is something that happened in wrestling, and now he‘s, you know, taking the shot at him.  But, you know, it has to be regulated in every sport.

ABRAMS:  All right, we are going to stay on top of this investigation.  A special thanks to former pro wrestlers Marc Mero and Steve Blackman and to Dave Meltzer and Andrew Mustnik (ph) for adding real value to this conversation.  Thanks a lot.

Coming up, we compare Paris Hilton‘s comments about her time behind bars with the convicts from our “Lockup” series. 


PARIS HILTON, HOTEL HEIRESS:  All of the sheriffs were very professional.  I was treated like any other inmate, no better, no worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) You, you, I want you to do it. 


ABRAMS:  And later, Will Ferrell is back, once again squaring off against a precocious baby who has been trained to say some nasty things.  A lot of people are making a big fuss.  Is it really that big a deal?  Isn‘t it just funny?  No, we‘ll talk to one child psychologist who says this is no laughing matter.


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up, Anderson Cooper at CNN gritting his teeth while leading the post-Paris Hilton coverage last night.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR:  Well, here we go.  There was plenty of news today and, as always, we‘ll be bringing it to you, but we can‘t be above the news of the moment, either.


ABRAMS:  And then, of course, he repeatedly reminded us that he is, in fact, above that news.


COOPER:  I just don‘t understand her.  I don‘t understand the appeal.  I don‘t understand what she has done, but we can talk about that coming up, showing my own bias here.


ABRAMS:  Come on, CNN has become the Paris network.  The countdown clock before the interview, then their constant promotion?  It was a great get.  Just admit it.  Stop pretending.

One man not pretending last night was Larry King.  We had a lot of fun putting this together.  We took a little poetic license, added some music, and it sure started to look like something more than just an interview.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST:  And I‘m happy to welcome Paris Hilton to “Larry King Live.”  Good to have her with us.

PARIS HILTON, HOTEL HEIRESS:  I consider you an icon, and I really respect you, and it‘s an honor for me to be here today.  When I heard that you asked me to be on the show, I was excited.  I‘m very easy to get along with.

KING:  Did you wear special clothes?  Were you strip searched? 

HILTON:  Well, it‘s pretty gross. 

KING:  Were you faking it when you looked like you were having a happy time there? 

HILTON:  I was just like, “Oh my God, I could not believe I‘m here.”

KING:  Do you want to get married?

HILTON:  Definitely.  It was one of the happiest days of my life. 


ABRAMS:  OK, now back to the un-doctored version of the interview.  What was clear was that Paris had a very different experience than many other inmates.  If you‘ve ever watched our MSNBC “Lockup” series, you probably noticed the differences.


ANNOUNCER:  Due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised.

KING:  How well were you treated? 

HILTON:  Everyone at the L.A. County, all the sheriffs were very professional.  I was treated like any other inmate, no better, no worse. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You, you, I want you to do it.  You do it.  You beat on (INAUDIBLE) again. 

HILTON:  Just walking down the hall, like my lawyer came to visit me, I would see the girls in the hallway, and would say hi.  They were all really nice. 


HILTON:  You don‘t really have any privacy in jail, but it was nice to be away from all of the flashes for a while. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t breathe in here.  I can‘t get nothing out of here.  My toilet was full up with feces when I came here.  They did not flush it or nothing.  It was stinky and bugs and everything running around in here.

HILTON:  After being there a while, I had to accept that I could either make the best of it or make the worst of it.  So I just went with the motto, “Don‘t serve the time; let the time serve you.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I killed somebody over a carton of cigarettes.  You go get you a knife, and you stab that son of a bitch, and you say you ain‘t taking nothing else.

KING:  Is there a commissary?  Can you go and buy extra goodies?

HILTON:  Every Monday, they bring—it‘s called the canteen, and you can order candy and food and stamps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We can‘t eat this food.  We can‘t eat this.  The hot water don‘t work.


HILTON:  Well, I suffered from claustrophobia my entire life.  And when I first got in that cell, I was having severe panic attacks, anxiety attacks.  My claustrophobia was kicking in.  He could see that it would be better if I just did it on house arrest. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This particular inmate wants to go to mental health.  She does this every weekend.  She‘s just seeking attention.

HILTON:  So I didn‘t expect to be treated any different than anyone else, you know?


ABRAMS:  Joining me now, Robin Leach, TV host and celebrity editor for  Robin, what do you think?  How do you compare Paris‘ time to the real convicts? 

ROBIN LEACH, LASVEGASMAGAZINE.COM:  I didn‘t have the opportunity, Dan, of watching what you were showing, unfortunately, but, I mean, we do know that this was not real jail, in terms of what we‘ve seen in the movies.  So this is a women‘s detention facility, still very rough on her though, in all honesty.  I mean, she‘s not used to living that way and not used to being treated that way. 

ABRAMS:  What do you think of the interview?  What did you think of the interview, Robin?

LEACH:  Well, let me tell you, first, I don‘t want to professionally comment about Larry King, but I will tell you Larry was here in Vegas the night before interviewing the Beatles.  And I asked him while he was here if the back-to-back of the Beatles and Paris Hilton were his two best back-to-back interviews.  He said, no, it was Ross Perot and Al Gore, but he said these definitely ranked up there. 

I didn‘t think that it got anywhere near as much as it could have, but what you did see—that was the real Paris talking.  That was her not in her high-pitched, squeaky, little acting voice.  That was the real Paris, so you did get what you saw. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a little clip again.  This is King asking Paris Hilton about taking drugs. 


KING:  Have you ever been addicted to drugs?


KING:  Taken drugs?


KING:  Never taken drugs?


KING:  Do you have a drinking problem?

HILTON:  No, not at all.

KING:  You must have had—just this one drink, this one time?

HILTON:  I‘m just—I‘m not a big drinker.  I‘m not really into it.  I think socially people do sometimes when they go out, but it‘s not something that I really care about.


ABRAMS:  And we learned, in part, that‘s because apparently she‘s an Aquarius, is one of the things that she informed us during that interview.  Aren‘t there pictures of her in what seem to be compromising situations that seem to be drug-related? 

LEACH:  I think you have to define drugs in “Hollyweird.”  Cocaine is a drug.  PCP is a drug.  Meth is a drug.  Marijuana is not regarded as a drug. 

ABRAMS:  OK, well, there you go.  Robin Leach, good to see you. 

Thanks for coming back. 

When we come back, today‘s winners and losers, plus...


WILL FERRELL, ACTOR:  What are you doing?

PEARL MCKAY, DAUGHTER OF ADAM MCKAY:  I‘m gonna knock your teeth out.

FERRELL:  Stay over there! 


ABRAMS:  A baby beats up Will Ferrell.  Some are whining it‘s the kid that‘s really getting hurt from what she has to say.  Come on.  It‘s just some fun.  My next guest says, “No laughing matter.”


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s winners and losers for this 28th day of June 2007.  Our first, the bronze winner, Swedish men incarcerated for sex offenses.  Last week, a court there ruled inmates charged with rape can now get porn in jail.  They say it‘s just part of the rehabilitation process. 

The bronze loser, just plain, offensive Italian men, who will have to stay away from one Italian beach.  The “no men on the beach” is an effort in one town to allow women to sunbathe with only the eye of the sun and other women watching. 

The silver winner, non-candidate Al Gore.  A recent poll indicates he leads in New Hampshire, even though he‘s not running yet.

The silver loser, the candidate to buy Dow Jones and the “Wall Street Journal,” Rupert Murdoch, after reporters for the paper refused to go to work to protest his bid. 

But the gold loser of the day, Judge Larry Seidlin, the funny man in a laugh-at-him kind of way.  After it was reported the Anna Nicole judge had a lawyer in his court purchase a $1,000 handbag for Seidlin‘s wife.

And our big gold winner of the day, Will Ferrell, funny man in a laugh-with-him kind of way.  His “Funny or Die” Web clips are hilarious, as a 2-year-old lays down the law, literally. 


PEARL MCKAY:  Hi, punk.  Welcome to my nightmare.

FERRELL:  Hey, look, I don‘t know what those two bozos said to you, but I‘m not signing the confession.

PEARL MCKAY:  This is gonna be fun.

FERRELL:  I‘m not afraid of nobody.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna mess you up, punk.

FERRELL:  Look, I‘m not signing the confession, OK?

PEARL MCKAY:  I break bones and laugh.

FERRELL:  You‘re a cop.  You can‘t do anything to me.

PEARL MCKAY:  Sign the confession!

FERRELL:  I‘m not signing anything.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m losing my patience.

FERRELL:  I didn‘t do it, OK?

PEARL MCKAY:  I want my confession!

FERRELL:  Jesus!  Hey, put that badge back on.

PEARL MCKAY:  Now it‘s just you and me.

FERRELL:  Hey, I want a lawyer!

PEARL MCKAY:  I am the law!

ADAM MCKAY, COMEDIAN:  Sorry, man, there‘s nothing I can do for you. 

You brought this on yourself.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna bite your nose off.

ADAM MCKAY:  She‘s what we call a loose cannon.  We don‘t control her.

FERRELL:  Don‘t look at me like that.

PEARL MCKAY:  I get off on this.

FERRELL:  Come on, lady.  I didn‘t do nothing.

PEARL MCKAY:  You‘re going down, ese.

FERRELL:  God, you‘re frightening.

PEARL MCKAY:  Gotta call someone.

FERRELL:  What are you doing?  Who you got to call?

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m calling 911.  Oh, wait, I‘m a cop.  Hi, Hell.  I‘ve got someone coming to you...

FERRELL:  No, I don‘t want to go to Hell. 

PEARL MCKAY:  Sign that confession!

FERRELL:  I still didn‘t do anything.

PEARL MCKAY:  Game on, homes.

FERRELL:  Jesus.

PEARL MCKAY:  It‘s going to get ugly.

FERRELL:  You are loco.

PEARL MCKAY:  Look what I found.

FERRELL:  What are you doing?

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna knock your teeth out.

FERRELL:  Stay over there!  You broke my goddamned nose.


ABRAMS:  Joining us now, Dr. Robert Butterworth, a psychologist specializing in trauma and child-related issues.  Come on, it‘s just funny. 

DR. ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST:  Oh, yes, but, you know, I think more people have seen these two—the videos on this kid than his last two movies.  But the problem is, even when movies where they have animals, they have somebody there to protect the poor animal.  Here you are getting these kids to learn all this language.  The first thing with the cop movie is she‘s talking like Dirty Harry.  In the first one he did with that little 2-year-old, the one was acting like a drunken landlord.  I mean, this stuff sticks. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.

BUTTERWORTH:  You know, it‘s not like a 6- or 7-year-old, you can say, “OK, forget it.”  Reality and fantasy are merged together.  I want to see this kid in preschool. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  So the fact that my two nieces come to me and talk to me about putting poo-poo and pee-pee in tea means that they‘re going to somehow be—people are going to poison people later in life? 

BUTTERWORTH:  No, it doesn‘t mean that, but what it means is, when you teach kids weird language and teach them to pound on tables or threaten, and you reinforce it, “Oh, look, we‘re watching you on TV, you‘re famous,” you‘re giving them rewards for doing bad behavior. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Come one.

BUTTERWORTH:  Come on, we‘re going to follow this kid up in a couple of years.

ABRAMS:  The kid‘s parent is there.  This is Will Ferrell‘s partner. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Yes, I know. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s their daughter. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Yes, but the thing is—and nobody knows what they‘re doing.  The thing is that—you can say, “OK, forget it.  We were just playing.”  Reality and play are fused together.  Hey, listen, I‘m going to go to that preschool in two years, and we‘re going to see this kid as she gets thrown out. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I‘m sure.  I‘m sure she‘s going to be awful, awful.  

BUTTERWORTH:  I got a bet with you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Dr. Butterworth, good to see you.  Thanks for coming on. 

BUTTERWORTH:  Take care.

ABRAMS:  “Morning Joe” tomorrow morning, don‘t forget.  It‘s where Joe Scarborough is.  He‘s got some good guests on tomorrow morning.  Make sure you tune in for that.  And coming up next is the Doc Block.  Thanks for watching.



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