President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate professional-wrestling executive Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration, his transition team announced Wednesday.
If confirmed, McMahon would be the first Cabinet secretary to ever face a “Stone Cold Stunner” on national television.
McMahon, 68, a co-founder and former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, was one of Trump’s early backers and contributed more than $6.5 million to support his campaign. She and Trump have had business ties for decades, dating to the late 1980s when WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, held WrestleMania, an annual pay-per-view event, at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
“Linda has a tremendous background and is widely recognized as one of the country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe,” Trump said in a statement. He added that his administration is “going to bring back our jobs and roll back the burdensome regulations that are hurting our middle-class workers and small businesses.”
McMahon, who built WWE with her husband, Vince, helped oversee the company’s growth from a 13-person start-up to an international operation with more than 800 employees. Last year, the company posted record revenue of $659 million.
“Our small businesses are the largest source of job creation in our country,” McMahon said in a statement. “I am honored to join the incredibly impressive economic team that President-elect Trump has assembled.”
McMahon, who twice ran unsuccessfully for a Senate seat in Connecticut, has been a vocal supporter and fundraiser for Republican candidates including Chris Christie and Trump.
Trump, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, has been a longtime supporter of the McMahons’ empire. In 2007, he shaved Vince McMahon’s head on national television after winning the “Battle of the Billionaires.”
“He was a wonderful promoter,” McMahon said of Trump earlier this year. “He really greased the wheels and made things very easy. We got to know him personally, and he was fun.”
The McMahons have also given $5 million to the Trump Foundation, making them the charity’s largest donors other than Trump.
McMahon, a graduate of East Carolina University, started her career as a receptionist at the law firm Covington & Burling in 1969. She left three years later to move to Connecticut with her husband, where they took over his family’s wrestling-events company.
She is also the co-founder and chief executive of Women’s Leadership LIVE, which supports women in business.
As an advocate for women, McMahon told Katie Couric in March that she was taken aback by Trump’s comments demeaning women.
“Those [comments] were just over the top; they were deplorable, objectionable absolutely,” McMahon said on Yahoo News. “He’s not helping, certainly, to put women in the best light. Maybe he regrets them, maybe he doesn’t. I realize he punches hard when he punches back, but that’s just over the top. I wish that no candidate would make those comments.”
The SBA, which partners with banks and credit unions to lend to small businesses, serves as an advocate for the country’s 30 million small businesses. But many say the agency’s role is limited because it does not have direct purview over such things as the Affordable Care Act and other regulations that affect small businesses.
“While the charge of the SBA is narrow, having someone like Linda McMahon who can work across agencies to roll back regulations could have some real impact,” said Katie Vlietstra, vice president for government relations and public affairs at the National Association for the Self-Employed.
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez of New York, the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, expressed disappointment.
“This selection is proof that President-elect Trump’s commitment to small businesses is about as ‘real’ as professional wrestling,” she said in a statement. “I am concerned her appointment follows a pattern of choosing individuals for cabinet-level positions who do not have the policy knowledge for the job.”