CNBC Wrestles With a Bad-Boy Image
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, June 10, 2004; Page C07
Three weeks after announcing it had hired WWE wrestling bad boy John "Bradshaw" Layfield as a financial analyst for the network, CNBC said yesterday it was shocked to learn that JBL was in fact a WWE bad boy and it sacked him for doing the Nazi goose step and stiff-armed salute during a World Wrestling Entertainment match in Munich.
That, Layfield told The TV Column, is something he'd done before when performing in Germany both for WWE and for a German wrestling outfit, and is among the "reprehensible" things the character he plays has done.
"We find his behavior to be offensive, inappropriate and not befitting anyone associated with our network," the NBC cable financial network said in a statement about Layfield, who wrote the book "Have More Money Now: A Commonsense Approach to Financial Management."
"They hung me out to dry," Layfield told The TV Column.
"I was playing a character. It's the same as Vin Diesel playing a Nazi."
Layfield insists he's not an anti-Semite and says he made the gestures to incite the German audience to root for his opponent, Eddie Guerrero, during the Munich match.
"I'm a bad guy [on WWE]. I'm supposed to incite the crowd. I've done [the Nazi gestures] for decades. I really didn't think anything of it -- I know how bad it is, I've lived [in Germany]. I've been to Dachau, seen those places where they exterminated millions of Jews."
But, Layfield continued, "I draw the line between me and my character. That's like saying Anthony Hopkins really enjoys cannibalism."
Layfield said he had discussed his WWE character with CNBC before taking the contract and even had language put into the contract saying the network understood the nature of the role he played for WWE.
"The only thing they asked me not to play was a stock market cheat or fraud. Other than that, they said they totally understood, that it was like [California Gov.] Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a cyborg. . . .
"I thought I had it covered. I thought they understood the character is a bad guy and is going to do bad things," he said. "[JBL] has done some reprehensible things recently.
"I'm the worst bad guy they have on ['WWE Smackdown!']," he added.
Though a WWE spokesman acknowledged that JBL had done the goose step and Nazi salute before, the organization also put out a statement saying that Layfield had been reprimanded for last weekend's gesture.
"What he did in the ring was not probably the best thing to have done," the WWE rep told The TV Column. "We all understood why he did it and know that his intentions were good ones in terms of trying to make it the best experience for the fans and his fellow professional Eddie Guerrero -- to get the fans even more with [Guerrero], which is what John was supposed to do as the bad guy."
A CNBC spokeswoman said the network first received word of the incident via e-mails. She did not elaborate and referred to the CNBC statement in response to additional questions.
It would seem that CNBC was okay with the fact that Layfield's character recently was seen on UPN telecasts of "Smackdown!" as a Hispanic-taunting anti-immigration fanatic.
Layfield says his character has turned into "JR Ewing meets Pat Buchanan":
"Most of my promos are straight out of Pat Buchanan's run for election. That's where I got it from -- preaching against immigration, the fact that they're teaching in Spanish in public schools, and I say 'Spanish' with a despicable look, like I want to throw up. I got all of this from Pat Buchanan."
CNBC apparently also was fine with the fact that in a column on the WWE Web site, JBL wrote of his detractors: "How long has it been since you guys that spend all your time reporting on us have been with a woman other than your mother? After all, when I see you in airports hanging out, you are always with guys. You guys don't have a questionable sexual orientation do you?"
Layfield penned that bit on May 11, just six days after CNBC announced proudly that it had signed the wrestler and author, who'd been a guest on that network and others, including Fox News Channel, as a contributor on several shows.
"John brings a fresh perspective to the stock market, politics and finance," CNBC said in its announcement. "We are excited that he is part of our team and look forward to his engaging, entertaining insights."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company