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Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Oct 23, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

UPDATE: The Pittsburgh Caper: A Strange Hoax


So, the Pittsburgh Caper appears to have been a total hoax. Mea culpa, mea culpa, for following the blogospheric herd in order to be on top of what seemed to be a breaking story. What can I say? As my readers know, I kept updating the story.

Now, we have a "break" in that story. There is no photographic evidence of a crime at or near that ATM machine. There have been "inconsistencies" in her story. And, now, Texan Ashley Todd has confessed to making up the story.

For all you hard-hearts and women-haters, let me note that this kind of bid for attention, one that includes self-mutilation, does not necessarily mean that nothing happened.

It may mean that nothing happened the night of October 22nd. No, I'm not going to go there. I will in the future but I can't right now, no time.

Why did she do it? As the author of Women and Madness, you'd think I'd know. I'm not sure that I do. Hot Air tells us that she also told police that she'd been "fondled" by her attacker. She could also now be confessing to making it all up to simply be done with the extraordinary pressure and the attention, and in order to crash and burn.

But many African-American men have been lynched in our country after lying, frightened white women charged them falsely with crimes they did not commit. That is true. But, it is also true that women–women of all colors–in America are being sexually assaulted with alarming frequency.

In the scheme of things, Miss Ashley Todd did not shoot down ten of her classmates and then turn the gun on herself. She did not come into the public sphere with guns a'blazing. She came as a victim–more acceptable for a woman to do. But she did make it harder–much harder–both for women and for McCain supporters to gain a sympathetic hearing for their accounts of being intimidated, bullied, shamed, and also attacked.

McCain Supporter Attacked and Mutilated in Pittsburgh. Is It a Hoax?

I knew things were going to get ugly and so they have. First, journalist Mara Schiffren, and a member of the LiberalHawks listserv group, sent us all to the Drudge Report where we found an unbelievably lurid headline "Shock: McCain Campaign Volunteer Attacked and Mutilated in Pittsburgh." What? Another woman physically attacked during the campaign? A female McCain sign holder was physically attacked in Manhattan by an irate Obama supporter. She has pressed charges.

Well, I'm not gloating but what did people think I meant when I predicted "civil wars" in America? And when I said that media sexism against Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Sarah Palin was dangerous? The faux-pornographic photos of both female politicians (now sadly joined by presumed naked photos of Senator Obama's deceased anthropologist mother!) are dangerous to real, living women. For example, to the pro-McCain demonstrator in Manhattan and to the pro-McCain supporter in Pittsburgh. (See below for an incident that took place in Wisconsin in which a pro-Obama woman was physically attacked. )

Back to the story. Some LiberalHawks wisely counseled caution and patience, the Pittsburgh story might be an elaborate hoax or wildly exaggerated. Within minutes, blogger Fausta Wertz confirmed that a woman who had a McCain-Palin bumper sticker was indeed viciously attacked in Pittsburgh. (She still counseled caution though).

According to The Pittsburgh Channel, what began as a $60.00 robbery at an ATM machine turned ugly when the attacker saw the McCain bumper sticker. He then punched and kicked the 20 year old woman and carved a "B" into her face. (Is the "b" for "bi–ch" or for "Barak"?) The newspaper described the robber as a "dark-skinned black man, 6 feet 4 inches tall, 200 pounds with a medium build, short hair and brown eyes." Hot Air identified the victim as a College Republican Field Represenative. Her name is Ashley Todd. Her sweet face one eye are badly bruised and there is a large backward "B" engraved on her cheek. Scroll down and see the photo at Hot Air.

An upside-down and backward "B", which is what we see on her face, could have been carved there by a man who had her on the ground and on her back while she was facing away from him. Could this be an elaborate hoax? And for political gain? Some women–but very few–have, in the past, claimed they were physically attacked when that was not the case. I know this has happened in cases of divorce, especially where custody is involved. We won't know everything until the police have been all over this with a fine-tooth comb and without a political agenda. Pittsburgh police spokeswoman, Diane Richards, told Channel 4 Action News that Todd had been robbed, attacked and maimed outside of a Citizen's Bank.

But, before I could catch my breath, Pamela-the-Magnificent of Atlas Shrugs just sent us news from Longwood Florida. A McCain HQ Manager, Roger Coverely's home has just been shot up. According to Local6.com, "The Republican manager said he is convinced he was targeted because of new McCain signs he added around his home.

'All I can tell you is this, I have a very good relationship with my neighbors,' Coverely said. 'I mow my lawn. The only thing that has changed is I have two McCain signs in my front yard.'

Coverely said he has taken about 300 calls concerning stolen or vandalized McCain signs in the area.

'It says this campaign is getting vicious,' Coverely said. "

Folks: This is not good. American v American in a race war, a class war, a gender war even while jihad has been declared against America?
Forget about all the voting fraud allegations and the chaos at the polls: Do we all have to get guns? Will we need the National Guard to protect us when we vote? Or to walk voters home?

This just in from Atlas Shrugs, "UPDATED: Carl Cameron of FOX is reporting that McCain has called the victim… (who) worked in a McCain phone bank."

Folks: This is definitely not good. And by the way, I would feel as strongly if physical assaults for poliitical reasons were being perpetrated by McCain supporters. If anyone has such credible stories, please share them with me.

God Bless the Blogosphere! In one second flat, someone commented at the blog. They sent me to a story out of Caledonia, Wisconsin in which a female supporter for Obama was canvassing door-to-door. The "disgruntled male homeowner" started yelling that she, (Nancy Takehara), was "probably with ACORN and he started screaming and raving." Takehara says that "He grabbed me by the neck…He was pounding on my head and screaming. I was terrified." The Caledonia police were called.

Within a few hours: A reader who says he's a plastic surgeon writes that he believes the attack is superficial and may be a hoax. Chillingly, he closes with this line which I'm paraphrasing: "This may be a Tawana Brawley moment for Republicans." Does anyone–doesn't everyone–remember this sad case which launched Al Sharpton's career?

Michelle Malkin thinks it might be a hoax too. She is thinking about people who mutilate themselves, scrawl anti-Semitic or anti-Black graffiti for attention or to prove a political point.

Now, several readers who say they are police officers suggest that the backward "B" is troublesome as is the neatness of it. They also wonder why this woman is not more bruised and battered if she was attacked by a man who was much heavier and taller than she is.

Some readers worry that the racial component to the story is too neat as well.

Well, this story is bad if it's true and it's even worse if it's a hoax.

Hot Air has kept at the story. Here's their Update VII: I spoke with two executives at the College Republicans on the record about this story. Charlie Smith, the National Chair, and Ethan Eilon, the Executive Director, both say the photo is legitimate and that it came from Ashley Todd, the victim in this case. The attack began at 8:50 pm ET and Ashley called the police at 9:30 PM ET. Initially, she was robbed, ran away after the robbery, and the robber followed her to her car. At that point, he became enraged at the bumper sticker and began beating her and scratched the 'B' into her face. Ashley went to the hospital early this morning after initially refusing medical attention last night, and had an MRI and/or a CAT scan. Doctors believe her cheek will heal fully.
Eilon spoke with her personally today about the incident and confirmed the above with me. He first met Ashley in June, when she came to DC for training with the College Republicans. She works for them as a contract employee. She does not work for the McCain campaign. Both Eilon and Smith expressed revulsion over an attack on a young woman just getting involved in politics, but they consider this the act of a lone lunatic.

I'm not going to blame people for keeping a healthy skepticism on this case, but so far, the two media reports appear to check out.

Thus, according to Hot Air the victim did go to the hospital this morning after refusing medical care last night.

Stay tuned right here for Updates.


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