The story of Ashley Todd, the 20 year old McCain campaign volunteer allegedly attacked in Pittsburgh due to her political affiliations, has been making the national news rounds. As with any story making national news (see: Joe the Unlicensed Contractor), media scrutiny can sometimes lead to fact-checking (unless it's the Iraq War). As it turns out, Todd was not attacked by anyone and it appears that she inflicted her injuries upon herself (including carving a "B" into her cheek - backwards).
This would have little to no political consequences if it were left untouched by both campaigns. People would have written it off as some looney in western PA looking to seek attention. The reality of the situation is, however, that both campaigns took notice of Ashley Todd's allegations. Barack Obama's campaign simply said that they hoped Todd would recover quickly. The McCain campaign went a little further.
John McCain actually called the woman up, and Sarah Palin talked to the woman's family. While going a little further than the average campaign statement wishing the "victim" well, still not a horrible thing to do. The main issue is the fact that many reporters who first reported on the story say that their source was not the police department, but the McCain campaign itself:
While I do believe that the McCain campaign had something to do with injecting the story into the national news spotlight quicker than normally would have happened (if something like this would have reached the national news anyway), I do not think that they did it knowing it was false. Their main error was pushing the story before all the facts were out.
But now the McCain campaign ends up with egg on their face. While the McCain camp may not have participated in overt race-baiting, Fox News did not waste time attributing the unidentified black male's actions against Ashley Todd to the Obama candidacy:
"Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination. That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election. If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee."
So because a black man allegedly attacked a white woman in Pittsburgh (classic racial fear, right Woody?), it should make people rethink their support for Barack Obama as a black president because they do not know enough about him? Unless Barack Obama himself attacked the woman, I do not see how it should bear on him at all. Linking the two due to race is racist (even Murtha would tell you that).
Ironically, in the same post, John Moody (VP of Fox News), admits that not all of the facts are out and says that the McCain campaign will be ruined if this turns out to be a hoax (maybe he was privy to the McCain campaign pushing the story...?): "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting." Never mind that Moody himself was blatantly race-baiting in his misguided remarks about how Obama, as a black man, should be doubted in light of an imaginary black man in Pittsburgh.
The fact of the matter is, the story should not have been pushed by the McCain campaign. In an election where issues of race have been highlighted due to Obama being black, one would think that a large black man attacking a young white woman (and sexually assaulting her) supposedly due to her allegiance to the McCain campaign would be off limits, with the exception of the "get well soon" statements, until all of the facts were 100% verified (and even then it may be unwise to discuss it). Alas, the McCain camp clearly needs to brush up on its Tawana Brawly and Francisco Nava knowledge. Of course, they could always talk about the issues... Peace.
Photos - Ashley Todd (Times Online), Ashley Todd, this time in handcuffs (Faniq)