Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Scarlet Letter "B"

Even before the story of Ashley Todd hit our press, I told a fellow editor that something "smelled funny." Todd is the 20-year-old Texas woman and McCain campaign volunteer who claimed she was robbed at knifepoint and brutally attacked on the streets of Pittsburgh by a big black man who then scratched a letter "B" onto her cheek after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car. According to Todd's initial story, the man told her he was going to "teach her a lesson" for supporting McCain, and that she was going to become a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Police had immediate suspicions that the story was false (the backward "B" was a pretty good place to start), and their investigation confirmed that Todd made the whole thing up. Authorities say she has mental health issues and might have inflicted the injuries herself. I had second thoughts about even using the original story, but in the current political climate, some would construe our not using the story as trying to push under the rug something that could be considered as being negative regarding Obama or his supporters. Some conservative bloggers jumped on the story with both feet, and even after it started to unravel, one blogger offered this: "For all we know at this point, Ashley could be a liberal pretending to be a conservative faking a hate crime to discredit perfectly legitimate fears of the thuggery festering just under the surface of Obamania." Oh boy. And according to a story on the Huffington Post site, an official with the McCain campaign in Pennsylvania, in discussions with Pittsburgh television stations, pushed a version of the story that went beyond the facts that were known at the time. There's no indication that the national McCain campaign was involved in this. However, I can't help but think that if Todd's story had been proven true, someone would have tried to make political hay out of it. I also can't help but think that when a political culture is created in which people feel it's OK to scream "Terrorist!" "Muslim!" or "Off with his head!" at public events, you just might encourage a troubled person to think it's fine to make up an incendiary tale.



Blogger PRIguy said...

For all we know, Ashley could be an idiot posing as someone who thinks she's smart, doing an action that could be considered phony even though it looks real, except for the fact that the B looks like she marked her face while looking in the mirror even though she wants people to think a crazed Obama supporter did it, while it's quite clear that a crazed McCain supporter did herself.

Hey didn't help McCain's campaign.

October 25, 2008 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I think she's pretending that she lied about it because she feels bad for violent, mysterious black men with dyslexia...

October 25, 2008 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad part, other than this woman's obviously tenuous emotional state , is that the hacks on both side of the battle tried to make political hay of this. First the Republicans tried to make it seem like a racist Democratic attack against McCain, then the Democrats try to say that the Republicans set it up to make Obama look bad. The woman obviously has emotional problems, and she was right to bemoan the fact that the news media blew it out of proportion. But the media did no more than our frenzied society of bloggers. I don't know what's worse -- the news focusing on crap like this when the country is going down the tubes financially, or a world of bloggers, each of which thinks that they have something new and important to say. I liked earth better before we discovered the blogosphere. (Yes, I'm aware that this blog allows me to spout off.)

October 26, 2008 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Dawncy said...

Please click on "The Dawning" for a glimpse at our political future in the year 2018:

October 26, 2008 at 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Steelerfan43 said...

Ellipses your funny. I definitely agree with you. The first thing my husband and I thought about was that her attacker must have been dyslexic because the B on her face is backwards. Also, her black eye did not look like any black eye I have seen. Most black eyes have a little green, yellow, black and blue in them. Her black eye was too perfect, not to mention she had no other bruising on that side of her face. This whole situation was sad. This is a girl that apparently is in need of attention all the time. You should check out her Myspace page if it us still up. She admits she is a compulsive liar and she likes it.

October 27, 2008 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

A friend of mine said that if she had just scratched an "O" into her face, instead of a "B," she might have gotten away with it. You can't screw up an "O" in the mirror.

October 27, 2008 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Teh Stoopid Reeder said...

Are you sure it's a B? Looking from the side it could be the McDonald's arches, no doubt carved by a crazed Burger King supporter. The election is obviously biasing the media's coverage.

October 27, 2008 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Mike Jones said...

That would be a "whopper" of a story if she told police the Burger King attacked her.

October 27, 2008 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Brant said...


October 27, 2008 at 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If her face was just a little bigger she could have 'super-sized' it!

October 27, 2008 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

One of the great things about this blog is how it can devolve into pure silliness at times.

October 28, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speak for your own comments

October 30, 2008 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Brant said...


October 30, 2008 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

When does the justice system hold people accountable for their actions? I see the court agreed to a deal with this young woman. She gets no jail time, in favor of some accelerated rehab time. I also heard she must give proof to the court every two weeks.

A few questions come to mind. What exactly is she being rehabilitated from? I've never heard of any addiction or other problem that she suggested caused this stupid action. Secondly, what exactly is she providing proof of, for, with, or whatever? She lives in Texas, so does she return to Texas and report to somebody there, or continue to burden the PA courts with herself?

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh. But, the evidence seemed pretty clear -- she admitted she made up the story, the evidence was literally on her face, etc. She exercised the police department to investigate her claims. And, she essentially walks away without penalty! I think I also heard she will "have no record."

What am I missing in this aftermath?

October 30, 2008 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I think the court was showing sympathy for the fact that she's clearly mentally ill. That's just my guess.

October 30, 2008 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Mike Jones said...

The punishment kinda makes sense to me, Roger. This woman, who is clearly troubled, is not necessarily dangerous to society. So why lock her away in an overcrowded prison when they have the ARD to counsel her. Sounds like we all win - the taxpayers save some cash and she gets her life back together. It should be noted that she'll go to jail if she strays from the ARD or makes more mischief in the near future. Regardless, this girl has been branded a liar and became the butt of many jokes. What other punishment do you need besides complete humiliation?

October 31, 2008 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

Maybe I'm a bit cynical on these issues. I admit I don't understand all the rehab programs, accelerated or otherwise. It seems like many, many cases are diverted to these programs. But, I never hear any positive results from them. I only hear/read the court action in "making a deal" with the defendant.

Perhaps my cynical view stems from many of the drunken driving cases being sent this way. Many of you know that I believe our (society as a whole) stance is way to accommodating. Shuffling offenders off to some accelerated program is often the penalty. I guess 17,000 deaths per year isn't enough to bring the drunken drivers to some harsher form of accountability. Whoever is running these rehab programs must be making a bundle.

October 31, 2008 at 8:39 PM  

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