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World Wrestling Entertainment is not to blame for the murderous actions of Lionel Tate, Part III

By Scott Tibbs, January 30, 2004

CBS News has another article on Lionel Tate, the monster who beat a 6-year-old girl to death. Tiffany Eunick suffered injuries consistent with a bad car crash. (See my column on this matter.)

What of Tate's "mother", Kathleen Grosset-Tate? CBS reports that she testified to yelling down the stairs while the brutal beating was going on: "Tiffany stop making that noise, or I'm going to spank your butt."

Well, golly gee goodness guys, the fact that she was being beaten to death would not have contributed to the fact that she was loud, would it? Grosset-Tate is a trained highway patrol officer. A savage beating and murder happened in her own home while she was taking a nap. The noise woke her up; instead of investigating she yelled to the kids to be quiet.

I don't believe for a second that Lionel Tate's behavior ("playing too rough") was anything new. This does not come up out of the blue. She should have known better. She should not have left this little girl with her son unsupervised. But she didn't take necessary precautions, nor did she investigate the noise. Because of her negligence and her son's depravity, a 6-year-old girl is dead.

This was not a case where a kid knocked over a lamp while running in the house or accidentally hurt a playmate when playing too hard. This was a brutal beating. From the article: "Tiffany suffered a fractured skull, lacerated liver and at least 35 other injuries." I emphasize again what the judge who sentenced Lionel Tate said about this case: "It is inconceivable that such injuries could be caused by roughhousing or horseplay or by replicating wrestling moves."

And some still blame the depraved actions of Lionel Tate on World Wrestling Entertainment. They argue that WWE has a responsibility in this case because of the scripted violence of WWE matches.

I disagree with this. WWE cannot control what people do after watching their products. WWE can't stop bad parenting. Raw and Smackdown are rated TV-14 for a reason. Raw is on at 9 pm eastern time for a reason. WWE has been running "don't try this at home" public service announcements for years.

What do WWE critics suggest they do? They put out a product that is in demand. There are millions of wrestling fans, as the ratings for Raw and Smackdown demonstrate. Not everything they put on TV is something people want to see (as the tremendous loss of viewers during the "WCW InVasion" storyline showed) but pro wrestling itself is still a popular commodity.

Children do pick up bad behaviors, from pro wrestling and other entertainment media like "gansta rap" or movies. That is where the parents come in, to either admonish bad behavior or turn off the TV. Other than self-censoring their programs, what is WWE going to do about it? I think we as a society place way too much emphasis on the impact of the entertainment media and not nearly enough on personal responsibility. You can't blame WWE for promoting a product people want to see, but you can blame the parents for not being parents.

And I disagree that it is not realistic to expect parents to control what their children watch. That's a copout. A parent's most important responsibility is the upbringing of their children. I think this is part and parcel of the problem of parents using the TV, the PlayStation, or the computer as an electronic babysitter. What is going into the child's mind is less important than the fact that the kid is out of their hair. That is sad.