On Wednesday night just before 9:00 pm Ashley Todd, 20, of College Station, TX was allegedly attacked and robbed near an ATM machine at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street in Bloomfield Pennsylvania a suburb of Pittsburgh called "Little Italy". Texas native Ashley Todd has been volunteering for the McCain-Palin campaign in Pittsburgh and is a College Republican field representative.
In the initial report to the police Ashley Todd said a man put a knife to her throat and mugged her. The man demanded $60 and Todd handed the man $60 she had in her pocket and stepped away from him. As she started to move away from the assailant she said the 6'4" black man noticed she had a McCain bumper sticker on her car and became enraged and came back at her, hit her in the back of the head, knocked her to the ground kicking and punching her and then carved a backwards letter "B" into her right check.
"He continued to kick and punch her repeatedly and said he would teach her a lesson for supporting John McCain," said police Chief Nate Harper of the initial report that Ashley Todd filed.
Matt Drudge on the "The Drudge Report" appeared to break the story around 4:00 pm after it was reported on a local Pittsburgh TV station Thursday afternoon and this was followed by stories in the "National Review Online", "CNSNews.com", "Hotair.com", the Associated Press and FOX news all within an hour of each other.
What is obviously making this story so potentially explosive was that Ashley Todd was suggesting that the vicious attack after the initial mugging was politically motivated. This was not lost on the news networks and it was quickly reported as a politically motivated attack by a Barack Obama supporter.
The initial police report stated that they noted some markings on Ashley Todd's right check but did not take any photos and did not initially indicate it was the letter "B". So it is not clear who took the photo of Ashley Todd and how it got circulated to a number of high profile Blogger sites like "The Drudge Report" and news organizations like the AP and FOX news.
The blogosphere of course went into overdrive and during the next 24 hours began churning through Ashley's MySpace pages, Facebook pages, and her Twitter pages. All have since been taken down but many people, including right-wing bloggger Michelle Malkin, began calling into question Ashley's story.
These question and inconsistencies also appear to be why the Pittsburgh police has today called her in for a second round of questioning and are now apparently asking her to take a polygraph test. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard says investigators are "looking at some inconsistencies" in the 20-year-old woman's story. One of these inconsistencies was in Ashley's initial statement that the attack took place in front of a Citizen's Bank ATM. The Pittsburgh police department reviewed the ATM surveillance cameras today and could find no evidence that Ashley Todd was ever in view of the cameras. The Police have concluded that she could not have been standing directly in front of the ATM as Ashley first reported to them and that if the attack did take place it was somewhere outside of the view of cameras.
Bloggers turned over stones everywhere in her past to look for clues as to whether this story might be real or be a hoax. The following quote was found on her Myspace.com page: "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths off, but its better if you do."
Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin very quickly suggested the possibility that Ashley Todd could have used a mirror to carve the "B" on her right check and not realize that this would ultimately produce a backwards "B". It was also suggested that the "B" marking on Ashley Todd's check was much too superficial and much too neatly etched (and never broke the skin) to have been done during a struggle with an assailant that Ashley claimed had a 5 inch knife blade. Others suggested that this could be accomplished using a finger nail file. It is also not clear how the assailant discovered she was a McCain volunteer or knew which car was hers only after the initial mugging. Ashley's story claims that the politically motivated attack only occurred after she was mugged and after the assailant saw a McCain bumper sticker on the back of her car.
Others with medical backgrounds doubt the authenticity of the "black eye" shown in the picture as there is no visible swelling at all and depending on when the photo was taken the coloring is initially much redder and doesn't turn that black after an injury like this until hours later. Some have even suggested that this was an elaborate hoax and is nothing more than smudged mascara made to look like a black eye. Also suspect is that she didn't report the attack to the police until 45 minutes after it had happened, there were no witnesses on the busy street where she claimed it happened, and she refused to seek medical attention until the next day.
This quote by a blogger summed up what many others seemed to be suspecting, "There's actually nothing suspicious about Todd's wound if we simply assume that the mugger carved it into her face while she was hanging upside-down from a tree branch like a bat."
Because the Pittsburgh police have not yet released the results of today's polygraph what actually happened to Ashley Todd on Wednesday will probably not be clearly know for days if not weeks.
Any attacks, muggings, or robberies of course should be fully investigated regardless of whether there was any political motivation involved. And it is my hope that if this indeed occurred that Ashley Todd recovers fully and that the Pittsburgh police department finds the assailant and prosecutes him to the fullest extent of the law.
[UPDATE: Ashley Todd is now facing charges by the Pittsburgh police department for falsifying her statement that she was attacked and her mental condition is being evaluated. This story is sad on so many levels. Why do we live in such a charged political climate that would push someone so young to purposely concoct such an elaborate hoax in a blatant attempt at race-baiting. One can only assume that the purpose of this deception was to produce a political advantage for McCain in a hotly contested swing state. November 4th can’t come soon enough.]