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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet Ashley Todd. Ashley is a 20-year-old GOP volunteer. She's from Texas, but volunteers in Pittsburgh for the McCain campaign.

Allegedly, she got mugged around 8:50pm last night as she left a Republican phone bank in the Bloomfield section of the city, and was deprived of $60 by a "dark-skinned African-American", (standing) about 6'4" and weighing around 200 pounds.

But here's where it got ugly, apparently. After pursuing Ashley when she took off running towards her car, her attacker apparently became "enraged" when he saw the McCain bumper sticker, and proceeded to beat her up. But that wasn't enough - he then carved a letter "B" into her cheek.

(We all know what that's supposed to stand for.)

Both campaigns have decried the attack, and wished the victim well. Sarah Palin called her personally. They've both done the right thing.

But has Ashley? I really, really want to believe her. But the Encyclopedia Brown in me just can't. And there's one main reason.

She said it happened in Bloomfield.

See, my mother's side of the family is all from Pittsburgh, from my late great-grandparents to my baby cousins. It is my second hometown. I came to know each part of the city pretty well, especially the North Side, Downtown and East End, where the University of Pittsburgh is located. Just north of the university area is the Bloomfield neighborhood which is, unambiguously, Pittsburgh's Little Italy.

I grew up in the age of Yusef Hawkins, and we Black kids were always told to steer clear of Little Italy - in any city. And we though we have no family in that area, I always knew Bloomfield was not a place I wanted to get caught after hours. Who knows if anything would've happened? But for us, Little Italys were the closest we Northern Negroes would ever come to seeing what it must have been like for my Papa back in Mississippi.

So what in the hell was a 6'4" Black dude doing in Bloomfield at all, let alone to rob a little White girl? My first instinct was that he either had a death wish, or didn't exist.

I know things may have changed, so I had a conversation tonight with my uncle, a retired firefighter who knows every Pittsburgh neighborhood better than the back of his hand. Long story short, he said that there's a possibility the attacker could've come up from Oakland, which can be sketchy, to jack her...but why? He could easily target a Pitt student, around Todd's age, and wouldn't have to catch a bus to do it. He could have been up there for another reason entirely and decided to cash in on an opportunity, crudely speaking. But again, why? You're in the middle of Little Italy, a place where, presumably, a McCain bumper sticker ain't all that rare.

There's a few other things that are just off.

After calling the police at 9:30pm (40 minutes after the attack allegedly took place), she refused medical attention at the scene. Why? From the photos I've seen, Ashley looks pretty petite, and she allegedly just got her ass kicked by a dude who's a hell of a lot bigger than she is. You don't ask for an icepack? Damn. (She did get medical attention this morning, and she's expected to recover fully.)

Another thing - her bruising is really suspect. I've taken some punches in my life, and a few to the face. While she has the hints of a real bruise emerging in her left cheek, the black eye looks strange. Frankly, it looks like makeup. I'm not saying that's what it is, but without any swelling of any kind, sign of distress to the eye, or purplish or reddish inflammation around the area, it looks like a poor attempt to paint a raccoon mask on her face. Her nose looks pristine. If this was taken shortly after the attack (and the photo is hers), then why isn't there any swelling at all, anywhere? It's just over 24 hours since it happened - something would likely still be swollen.

(This is what I would've expected her eye to look like. I mean, just Google-image "black eye" and see. Does Ashley's injury look like it belongs, especially since she was allegedly viciously attacked by someone with passion and anger?)

And yes, the "B" is backwards, and looks at though it could've been self-inflicted in a mirror - but it's been well-explained as to why that could be the case. Dude could've been dyslexic for all we know. However, the point that's been overlooked by believers and skeptics alike (including Michelle Malkin - dude) is how deep the cut is - or isn't.

I've seen marks on men and women alike who've been cut in street fights, assaults and the like. They look nothing like this wound. This "B" looks like it could have been scratched in by a fingernail, or a nail file at most. (But it wasn't - Ashley alleged that a knife was used.) Truth be told, Ashley's cheek is hardly damaged. That "B" may be crude, but it was carved in there carefully. Slowly, I'd be willing to wager. Whoever did that took their time.

One of Malkin's readers feels the same way I do:
I’m a cop - 8th year now - and this McCain supporter attack just didn’t pass the “smell test” as soon as I read about it.

At this point, I’ll guess the shiner was inflicted either by a friend willingly as part of this hoax or a boyfriend in a domestic dispute.

The “B” is far to shallow and clean to be taken seriously. Reminds me of the stab wounds that a “hero” would get when fighting off a phantom attacker - far to superficial to have been done in what is a fairly violent encounter.

That, to me, is the smoking gun.

If I had to say right now, based on what I know of Pittsburgh and my experience getting my own ass kicked once or twice, this is a hoax.

I agree with Andrew that incidents like this should be treated with calm rather than hysteria. I certainly hope we're past a 20-year-old volunteer pulling something like this from the pages of a Richard Wright novel. But if she did invent this, she had better know that she's playing with fire. Both in terms of the inevitable demonizing of Black men that some on the Right will immediately indulge in, and the price she will pay if her story is borne out to be a lie.

You see, the media loves a good story about a White girl being victimized - no matter what the crime - but will tear an accuser apart if they're proven to be a liar.

For her sake, I hope she's telling the truth. For ours, I hope she's not.


  • I knew this incident reminded me of something (no, not Tawana):
    In 1989, as fascination with Morton Downey Jr’s TV show began to wane, he was involved in an incident in a San Francisco International Airport restroom in which he claimed to have been attacked by neo-Nazis who painted a swastika on his face and attempted to shave his head. Some inconsistencies in Downey’s account (e.g., the swastika was painted in reverse, suggesting that Downey had drawn it himself in a mirror), and the failure of the police to find supportive evidence, led many to suspect that the incident was a hoax and a plea for attention. A few months later, the show was canceled.


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    Blogger Merge Divide said...

    Call me a cynic… but if I’m going to rob a woman at knife-point in front of an ATM on the busiest street in Bloomfield (which happens to be the almost-entirely-white Little Italy section of town), I’m not going to stick around afterwards to see what bumper stickers she has on her car, and then double-back to carefully scratch (it was certainly not “carved” as some would have it) a very neat backwards (or upside-down) “B” into her cheek (therefore making a political statement), and tell her I’m “teaching her a lesson”. Especially if I know that Sean Hannity just happens to be in town the next day.
    I guess it’s within the realm of possibility…

    October 23, 2008 at 10:41 PM  

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