Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor covered the Benoit tragedy on Thursday night, with host Bill O'Reilly discussing the "bizarre details" with reporter Geraldo Rivera O'Reilly discussed the wikipedia story, then introduced Rivera. Rivera said there was going to be "increased scrutiny" in regard to WWE, saying "I don't know about the role they played in the death necessarily but certainly in the steroid abuse in the people who are their actors." He said WWE knows about the heavy steroid abuse and that there were raids on the doctor who prescribed Benoit his steroids (true there was a raid) and raids on the Internet pharmacy Benoit used (which actually happened months ago).
Rivera said that when you think of how WWE has tried to downplay the possibility it was roid rage and instead attempted to say, "Oh no, the couple had been feuding over the care of their developmentally disabled seven year old son Daniel", calling it "a bunch of bunk." He said WWE was trying to deflect attention from the steroid use.
In regard to the wikipedia posting, Rivera said he doesn't know if it was a legitimate post or a hoax posting, but it legitimately happened before the bodies were discovered by authorities. He said it would be an unbelievable coincidence and said there is another coincidence.
Rivera says (and I am will provide the exact quote, so feel free to count the errors), "The authorities say, here is Chris Benoit. He kills his wife on Friday June 15th or Saturday June 16th. Did you know that on Friday June 15th, a woman named Sherri Martel also died of unnatural causes, related to drug use. Who is Sherri Martel? She is another woman connected to this, these group of professional wrestlers. Indeed, the guy who was the original husband of Chris' wife Nancy, the one he allegedly murdered, he was this other woman's, Sherri Martel's booker, and she died the same day Bill - June 15th. Friday June 15th. The same industry, they all knew each other, it's one degree of separation."
When O'Reily asked about Martel's death, Rivera said, "They don't know yet. It's not natural causes. They don't suspect foul play. It means a drug overdose."
Rivera was asked if all of this will damage the industry or whether the authorities will step in. Rivera said that they need to find out if the email (he actually means the wikipedia post) was posted by someone from Stamford, CT and whether it was posted by an official of WWE. "If it was posted by someone in WWE, they were obviously in communication with Chris Benoit. It is alleged on that Sunday night June 17th, he was instant messaging people, talking to his friends, as he was watching a wrestling event that he was supposed to be at, in Texas. Did he send a text message to WWE - I killed my wife or my wife just died and what did Chris say and who in WWE caught the messages. The feds have to subpoena every single electronic device."
It was pointed out that Georgia is a capital crime state. Rivera said in New York and Florida, the feds did DEA raids, so the feds are already involved on a certain level. He said that we "don't know if it's a double murder, suicide or maybe something more insidious - maybe it's a triple murder." O'Reily said that if they can prove that the top guys are pushing the wrestlers to use steroids, then they can arrest them. Rivera said that what if "everyone in town knows what everyone is doing, there's steroid use coming out the gazoo and do nothing." He said it's a little less clear as to their criminal liability, but there is a story here that will affect professional wrestling. They compared it to corruption in boxing and said there would be indictments in this case,
From this point on, this is purely my opinion and mine alone. Whoever Geraldo Rivera's research assistant is, they should be terminated immediately because they were absolutely dreadful at their job. I present the following:
1)Sherri Martel did indeed die on June 15th.
2)The official cause in her death, despite Rivera's comments, has not been officially disclosed, so to claim it was drug-related (while possibly correct) was premature at best and irresponsible at worst.
3)Chris Benoit is alleged to have murdered his wife Nancy on Friday June 22nd, not June 15th. It is alleged he murdered his son on June 23rd before allegedly taking his own life later that date or the 24th.
4)The deaths of Sherri Martel and Nancy Benoit are not tied.
5)The Vengeance PPV was June 24th, not June 15th, and is believed to have taken place after Benoit commited suicide. Not only was Rivera not aware of the correct date, but based on his comments on the wikipedia topic, he assumed WWE officials were in Stamford the night before their Texas PPV. They were in Houston.
6)Rivera states Chris Benoit is "alleged to have instant messaged friends while watching the PPV" but where are these allegations from and how does Geraldo Rivera know this when the rest of the media, wrestling or mainstream has yet to report it?
7)Sherri Martel was not connected, socially or professionally to the Benoits in 2007. She worked with them in the past but beyond independent appearances and occasional WWE work, was living in Alabama. The Benoits lived in Georgia.
8)The comment that Kevin Sullivan was Martel's "booker" to tie everyone else together was preposterous. Sullivan booked for WCW so he was *everyone's* booker. Rivera obviously didn't even know what the term meant. Furthermore, Sullivan hasn't worked in wrestling in a booking position or any management position since WCW went out of business in 2001. Sullivan told the New York Times that he hadn't been in contact with Nancy Benoit since they divorced. His last likely contact to Benoit was early 2000 when Benoit and the other Radicals left WCW for the WWF.
9)Rivera's discussion of the steroid issue in professional wrestling sounded like wrestling had a "wild west" mentality where anything goes. Whether you believe the WWE Wellness Policy is effective or not, Rivera didn't even know it existed based on his comments, so he was obviously not educated on the topic.
10)The wikipedia user, based on the five minutes of research made into that IP address (which was done via sources available publicly online, with very little effort) showed that the person involved was a hoaxer who was changing wikipedia entries to include offensive, obscene, explicit comments. The comment about the death of Benoit's wife was just another example of that, not a smoking gun that WWE may have been involved.
11)The internet pharmacy Rivera referred to as "raided" was MedXlife. They were not raided due to the Benoit tragedy. In reality, Two of MedXLife's co-owners pleaded guilty to drug charges in Albany County in April 2007, two months before the Benoit incident. Benoit's doctor's office was indeed raided overnight, presumably for evidence in the Benoit case. There have been no "Internet pharmacies" raided in connection to the Benoit case at this point and time.
There has been a lot of media coverage with varying degrees of legitimacy but this discussion between two "respected" reporters took the cake for me. You can give reporters a pass for not knowing or understanding the inner workings of the wrestling business, but for Rivera to state that Sullivan was "Martel's booker" just shows a complete inability to do the most basic of research or even care about the topic. Rivera attempting to tie Kevin Sullivan, who's off running a gym in Florida, to the Benoit family tragedy because of a position he held over five years ago in a company that no longer exists was as useful as Rivera's ill-fated special on Al Capone's vault. Important facts like dates were spewed incorrectly to weave a picture of a larger problem between a "group of wrestlers."
While there is obviously an epidemic of problems in this industry (and all others, to be fair), Rivera throwing out incorrect facts and inferences does nothing to educate the public or to help bring about the truth to the viewers. Instead, it was wasted time that could have been spent on the true tragedy here - the deaths of a mother and a child, the shocking actions of someone who committed an act he never would have been suspected of prior to that sad weekend, and of Fragile X, the rare affliction Daniel Benoit suffered from and how we, as viewers, can help others afflicted by the same syndrome.
Instead, we watched two self-appointed experts spout boastful comments and half-truths. I usually enjoy such a thing - when they are done inside professional wrestling promos and aren't disguised as "real journalism."
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.