NEW YORK — World Wrestling Entertainment has won a resounding victory over the advocacy group Parents Television Council, forcing it to publish a detailed retraction of charges that the “WWF Smackdown” series on UPN led to the deaths of four children.
As part of an out-of-court settlement, the PTC paid the WWE $3.5 million in damages and acknowledged that it had made false statements, not only about the WWE’s supposedly deleterious influence on roughhousing children but also about the identity of advertisers who supposedly yanked their spots from WWE shows like “Smackdown.”
In the retraction statement issued July 3, L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC, said he “was incorrect and wrong to have blamed WWE or any of its programs for the death” of children such as Tiffany Eunick. Eunick died from injuries inflicted by another child, Lionel Tate, who went on trial for murder in Florida, charged with imitating the moves of WWE wrestlers.
Bozell said in the retraction that “false information” from parties to the Tate case led the council to charge that Tate was watching wrestling on TV when he killed Eunick. Instead, the PTC said subsequent facts proved that Tate was actually watching “The Flintstones” and the cartoon series “Cow & Chicken.”
The PTC used the “bogus” information about Tate to lobby advertisers to pull their ads from the WWE’s TV shows, Bozell said, “passing along accusations which we now know were false.”
Bozell went on to say, “Because I feel a simple retraction is not sufficient, I have personally extended my apology to Vince McMahon,” chairman of the WWE.
“Through this letter,” Bozell continued, “I now make this apology public, and specifically direct it to the advertising community that has in the past, is currently, or may in the future consider advertising or sponsoring WWE programming.”
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 letter from Bozell must remain on the PTC Web site for six months.