Recalling the “English, ah… no French, yeah… French” Episode.
As a strong supporter of public education, and having served on the General Assembly’s Education Committee, I found it particularly offensive when Governor Jodi Rell announced that she was appointing Linda McMahon to the Connecticut State Board of Education in January 2009.
After conducting some research, I wrote a memo to the Democratic members of the Legislature’s Nominations Committee outlining a number of factors that I believed made the case for rejecting her nomination and keeping McMahon off the State Board.
As a later Freedom of Information request by the Stamford Advocate’s Brian Lockhart revealed, when a member of the committee told Rell’s office that she had heard from a constituent who was “concerned about whether Mrs. McMahon would be an appropriate role model,” Rell’s staff, McMahon’s lobbyists and the WWE’s vice president of global public affairs kicked into high gear. In one memo they explained that they were going to, “polish McMahon’s image, craft her confirmation hearing statements and schedule as many one-on-one meetings as possible with legislators.”
In another, McMahon’s operatives provided the Governor’s Office with “notes” responding to “a list of concerns being circulated by Jonathan Pelto.”
At the top of that “list of concerns” was the fact that, in a number of official places, Linda McMahon’s biography stated that she graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in English. However, East Carolina University listed her as having received a Bachelor’s degree in French in 1969.
For example, in documents submitted to the New York Stock Exchange, her biography reads, “Born October 4, 1948, and raised in New Bern, N.C., Mrs. McMahon was a high school honor society student who was also fond of basketball and tennis. She and Vince were married in 1966. After graduating from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Linda and Vince moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a paralegal at the law firm of Covington & Burling.” (see http://www.nyse.com/pdfs/LMcMahonBio.pdf)
However her most recent biography on the WWE website reads, “Born October 4, 1948, and raised in New Bern, N.C., Mrs. McMahon was a high school honor society student who was also fond of basketball and tennis. She and Vince were married in 1966. After graduating from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., with a Bachelor of Science in French and certified to teach, Linda and Vince moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a paralegal at the law firm of Covington & Burling.”
By the time McMahon went before the General Assembly’s Nominations Committee on February 5, 2009, her prepared statement read;
“A major interest in education has been a significant constant in my life. I attended East Carolina University with the goal of becoming a teacher. However, a gentleman named Vince McMahon came into my life. Vince and I were married while in college, and this changed the course of my life and my professional career.
After I graduated from East Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in French and certified to teach, Vince and I move to Washington…”
So, French it was…
And McMahon went on to be confirmed by the State Senate and House of Representatives and served on the State Board of Education for a year, before resigning to begin her first run for the United States Senate.
POST SCRIPT: When I finally got a copy of Linda McMahon’s official State of Connecticut background questionnaire, a document that was signed and notarized on January 9, 2009, McMahon wrote (in her own handwriting) that she graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in English.
Yet as we now know, on February 5, 2009, when she testified before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Executive Nominations Committee, Linda McMahon said had graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in French.
But hey, English and French are both Indo-European languages, so it is easy to get them mixed up.