EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's Republican U.S. Senate candidate did not rule out cutting the minimum wage to help struggling businesses, and said Thursday that future increases to both the state and federal rates should be evaluated.
Former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon made the remarks at an East Hartford cleaning services company after receiving an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business, which opposes any increases to the federal minimum wage.
"We've got minimum wages in the states, we've got the minimum wages in the government and I think we ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them," said McMahon, when asked by a reporter if the current minimum wage rate should scaled back to help employers.
The issue of the minimum wage came up after a reporter asked McMahon about whether she supported the NFIB's political platform.
When asked if she knew the current rate, McMahon, the former CEO of Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment, said she did not remember and would have to double-check. Connecticut's minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, while the federal wage is $7.25 an hour. When pressed about her opinion of the state's rate, McMahon said she would not comment further on it.
After the news conference, McMahon clarified in an interview with reporters that she supports keeping the minimum wage in place and was not advocating that it be scrapped. Her campaign released a video of those comments later in the afternoon but did not include footage from the news conference in which she did not voice opposition when specifically asked about reducing current wage rates.
"I was really talking more about wage increases because I think we do have to hear from our business community what the impact on that is going to be," said McMahon.
McMahon could not recall if anyone at WWE was paid minimum wage. A spokesman for the wrestling company said afterward that WWE's lowest paid employees earn more than $8.25 an hour, but would not provide a figure.
WWE employs nearly 600 people, according to McMahon.
McMahon, a political newcomer, is in a competitive race with Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Chris Dodd. She has said she'll spend as much as $50 million of her own money on the race.
National Democrats seized upon McMahon's comments, bringing up how WWE laid off about 10 percent of its employees in 2009.
"It's not a huge surprise that multi-millionaire ex-CEO Linda McMahon is open to lowering the minimum wage," said Deirdre Murphy, national press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "After years of laying off employees while pocketing millions of dollars in profits, Linda McMahon has proven herself wrong for Connecticut's middle class families time after time."
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