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East Hartford — Republican Linda McMahon accepted the endorsement of a prominent business interest lobby on Thursday, but her campaign staff abruptly shut down a press conference in which McMahon was asked to explain whether she agreed with all of the organization's positions.
Most notably, McMahon said she believed Congress should consider lowering the federal minimum wage in times of economic distress for small businesses, such as the current recession.
"The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that and a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage," McMahon said.
McMahon did not directly answer a question about whether she would support having a federal minimum wage at all. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the lobbying group that endorsed her Thursday morning, opposes increases in the federal minimum wage, and has denounced it as harmful to small business interests.
When reporters asked McMahon to clarify whether she would support reducing the wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, the candidate replied, "We should always review the policy that is put in place."
"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?" McMahon said. "I think we should get input from our business community. We should listen to our small business operators, and we should hear what it is they have to say and how it's impacting their businesses and make some of those decisions."
McMahon received the NFIB endorsement in a small garage at the East Hartford office of Horizon Services Co., a cleaning firm that owner Ted Hsu said he started as a college student, nearly 20 years ago.
Hsu had a simple message for the Congress and political candidates: "You want to help me?" he said. "Just leave me alone."
McMahon's staff quickly ended the press conference as reporters asked McMahon to elaborate on what changes she would call for in government regulation of business.
As a crush of reporters moved with McMahon through the business toward the candidate's SUV, McMahon said she didn't want to imply that the minimum wage should be eliminated altogether.
"Don't take away this morning that I'm saying that we should scrap minimum wage," she said. "That is clearly not my position."
McMahon said she didn't know if anyone at World Wrestling Entertainment, the company of which she was CEO until her campaign began, is paid the minimum wage. And the candidate would not say whether she believes Connecticut's minimum wage — $8.25 per hour — was too high, or onerous on state businesses.
"You know, guys," she said, "I'm just not going to comment anymore on that."
After news outlets reported on McMahon's comments, the campaign released a video of McMahon assuring reporters, as she left the press conference, that she was not in favor of eliminating the minimum wage increases outright. In a press release, McMahon's campaign said there was a "disconnect" between her words and some reports on her appearance.
The campaign did not release video of the earlier exchange, when McMahon was asked if she would support reducing the current wage level, and responded by saying Congress should examine that and other mandates and whether businesses can "afford them."