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City of Brass

The story was sensational, and suspiciously stereotypical in invoking racial prejudices and conservative dogma about liberals’ irrationality. Sure enough, it was also a hoax:

Ashley Todd, of College Station, Texas, confessed to making up the
story about an attacker scratching a letter “B” into her face with a
knife and will be charged with filing a false report, police said at a
news conference Friday.Todd admitted there was no robbery or
attacker and said she had prior mental health problems, according to
police.

On Thursday afternoon, police
reported that Todd told them she was using an ATM at Liberty Avenue and
Pearl Street when a man approached her and put a knife to her throat
just before 9 p.m. Wednesday.Police spokeswoman Diane Richard
said Todd told them the robber took $60, then became angry when he saw
a McCain bumper sticker on the victim’s car. The attacker then punched
and kicked the victim, before using a dull knife to scratch the “B”
into her face, Richard said.

Todd’s story kept changing, though, over small details like whether it was her bumper sticker or her campaign button that triggered the assailant’s rage, adding more details like sexual assault to the original story, and inconsistencies on whether she was attacked from in front or knocked down from behind. The “B” on her cheek was backwards, as if self-inflicted in front of a mirror, and there was no record of the attack on the ATM camera. Ultimately the story fell apart.

As they say, it’s not the crime, but the cover-up, and in this case the hoax is making the rounds on Twitter (where “Ashley Todd” is a Election Hot Topic) and blogsphere and news channels. Suffice to say, this doesn’t bode well for McCain, which may be unfair (since Todd was a volunteer and her actions do not represent those of the campaign in any way), but it is still a reality.

What will the true impact of Ashley’s October Surprise be? John Moody, executive Vice-president for FOX News, mused on his blog (before it was confirmed that Todd’s account was a hoax) that the incident represented a “moment of truth”:

Less than two weeks before we vote for a new president, a white
woman says a black man attacked her, then scarred her face, and says
there was a political motive for it.

Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old white volunteer for John McCain’s
presidential campaign, says she was mugged at an ATM machine in
Pittsburgh (my hometown) by a big black man.

[…]

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

I dont know if McCain’s quest is over, but it certainly has been dealt an ugly blow – ironically, by guilt-by-association, the very same tactic that McCain sought to employ against Obama to discredit his reputation.

The simple fact remains that Todd’s motivations are laid bare – naked political opportunism, attempting to harness the worst stereotypes of black men and tie them to the Obama campaign. The incident would have “revealed” the true nature of Obama’s supporters; instead it revealed the nature of McCain’s. Ashley Todd was plaing with fire and John McCain is the one burnt.

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