After publishing Kelly Cramer's remarkable story "Daddy's Girl" two weeks ago, the most frequent question I've been asked about the tale of a Wall Street millionaire who married his own daughter is: How could Linda Schutt, a grown woman with a PhD in psychology, succumb to the seduction attempts of her father, hedge-fund manager Bruce McMahan, and participate in a years-long incestuous relationship with him?
Setting aside the curious notion that people don't seem nearly as puzzled by a filthy-rich financier sleeping with his own spawn, I have to admit that the question is a good one. Watching Linda in her video deposition, portions of which we made available on our website, browardpalmbeach.com, she appears to be telling the truth; she comes off as someone who was genuinely victimized. But we also published her e-mails, and in some of them, she sounds pretty enthusiastic about bedding her own dad.
Let me refresh your memory. Just a few days after their June 2004 "wedding" at Westminster Abbey, Bruce e-mailed: "Miss you W. Think nasty things about you all the time." Linda responded promptly, also using their cute abbreviations for husband and wife: "Mmm yeah, nasty is so good. You must have read my mind. What else can we say, we're H & W that's the beauty."
Yes, eww. And for the lawyers among you, let me point out that those e-mails were entered as exhibits in a court document.
But getting back to our question: What was it about Linda that allowed her to participate in this kind of behavior? Oddly, a possible answer to that question may have come from Linda's half-sister, Heather McMahan, who jumped to the defense of her family's honor in a story in the New York Post last week.
"[Linda] was a very sexual person, like most McMahans tend to be. We have a pretty strong libido all of us," Heather told the Post in a story in which she went on to describe her beloved half sis as a sexual freak show. At a party, for example, Heather said that Linda turned a goodbye peck into a Girls Gone Wild moment.
"She put her hands on both my cheeks and goes right for my mouth," Heather told the Post. "I pulled back, and she said: 'Wait a minute. If you don't let me kiss you on the lips, how are you going to let me kiss you down there again?'"
Now, keep in mind Heather told these things to the Post because she wanted to convince the American public that Linda and her father would never, ever engage in an incestuous relationship.
Let's break down Heather's reasoning: Heather assures us that Linda would never sleep with Dad and she knows this how? Because Linda made sexual come-ons to her own half sister.
I guess that's the kind of logic that makes sense only in families who control more money than the gross national product of Uganda.
The Post featured Heather in two follow-up stories to their own splashy rewrite of Cramer's story, which they plugged on page one and slapped across pages 12 and 13 of their September 28 issue. (Although dated September 28, our story actually hit our website on Tuesday, September 26.) In both Post follow-ups, Heather questioned Linda's motives and suggested that Linda was lying when she testified, under oath, about sex with her dad and the wacky wedding at England's big church. (And the Post also mentioned that Heather, 44, is a sculptor, but I don't know how the venerable tabloid resisted mentioning that her short list of film acting credits includes appearances in Class of Nuke 'Em High and The Toxic Avenger IV, in which she played a character named I shit you not The Vibrator.)
The Post presented Heather's accusations as news, even though Cramer, in her original story, had already pointed out that family members said they doubted Linda's story. Heather didn't return Cramer's e-mail, but older sister Alison did. Cramer's story quoted not only Alison but also Melinda Ewell, one of McMahan's ex-wives, as doubting Linda's account.
Not that those doubts matter much. Go back and read the opening of Cramer's story in which she makes the point that Linda and Bruce kept their relationship secret from the rest of the family. When the clan gathered for holiday parties, for example, Linda moved the Cartier Trinity ring Daddy had given her to a nonwedding-ring finger, for the sake of appearances.
So it's little wonder that other family members are emerging today, saying they didn't know about Bruce and Linda's naughty nuptials. They weren't invited.
According to an e-mail we received, McMahan family members are telling one another in the wake of our story that Linda made up her testimony about the Westminster Abbey ceremony. As for the photo we printed of Bruce and Linda snuggling with the Eiffel Tower in the background, the e-mailer tells us it was from "a family outing with all of the McMahans in Paris."
But rest assured, Bruce and Linda were at Westminster Abbey, posing in photos with their new wedding rings.
We have an entire series of these shots, which we were able to confirm were taken outside the Little Cloister garden at the Abbey. In our original story, we printed only the most dramatic image: the close-up of Bruce's hand on Linda's, showing off their rings. To aid those McMahans who still doubt the truth, we've reproduced some of the other photos from the happy occasion on this page.
Bruce never got around to testifying in the five lawsuits resulting from this strange case, but if he had, it would have been interesting to see him answer for these photos. If Linda is lying about the wedding ceremony, why were father and daughter posing outside Westminster Abbey with expensive wedding rings on their ring fingers?
Bruce made sure he would never have to answer those and other uncomfortable questions. (Like, for example, what his sperm cells were doing on a vibrator encrusted with dried bodily fluids, pubic hairs, and skin cells that turned out to match Linda's DNA.) On September 13, as Cramer was finishing her reporting, all five lawsuits were tentatively settled. We don't know all the terms, but we do know that one of the conditions for the settlement was that all the lawsuits be permanently sealed. When that was accomplished, McMahan would write checks somewhere, we believe, in the range of $7 million to $11 million.
All of that cash, however, couldn't take the court records we were already holding out of our hands. McMahan was simply too late to prevent our story from being published. But his throwing in the towel on the lawsuits and sealing the record would prevent other news organizations from culling records from court files themselves, which may be why more outfits haven't followed the Post's example and done their own stories. (Not that there's a lack of interest. Newsies from Australia to Greece have been asking us to send photographs of Bruce and Linda. Major daily newspapers, glossy magazines, supermarket tabloids, foreign press syndicates, and network television news organizations have all contacted us, asking for a piece of the amazing tale. But I suspect their uptight lawyers are holding them back, since they can't get the lawsuits directly from courthouses on their own.)
Bruce and his money are winning that battle. But he wasn't so fortunate when he tried to rush New Times into court the week our story hit the streets.
Thursday afternoon, the week our story appeared, we received a 37-page fax and a phone call from an attorney telling us that McMahan had convinced a federal judge in Miami to hold an emergency hearing the next morning to consider McMahan's motion for injunctive relief.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
McMahan wanted the judge to force us to remove Linda's video deposition from our website, as well as other court documents we posted there, like the 1990 paternity test showing with 99.7 percent certainty that Bruce is Linda's biological father. (But we suspected it was the video that was really giving him indigestion.)
One of our intrepid lawyers, Sandy Bohrer, responded by calling McMahan's people and asking them about their filing. He mentioned that after reading it, he got the impression that they had never heard of something called the First Amendment.
That must have been some phone call. Within minutes, McMahan folded. He withdrew his motion, and the emergency hearing was canceled.
That should be the end of Bruce's legal moves. At this point, only the New York Post has done stories based on Kelly Cramer's reporting, so it's in McMahan's interest not to open another legal can of worms. If he did, he'd have to expose to public view those five sordid court cases that he's paying so much money to seal, and the rest of the news biz would be on them like hounds on a hambone.