Friday, October 24, 2008

UPDATE 3 -- Questions Raised About McCain Volunteer's Alleged Knife Mutilation

Ashley Todd

Update 3: New Channel 4 Action News video: the Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman says "the victim's statement has a few inconsistencies in it -- and her statement has changed". Todd now is telling police that she was also sexually assaulted, that she "lost consciousness", and that when she awoke she "had a stinging sensation on her face". Earlier updates are at the end of this blog post.

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin is among those questioning the truth behind the story of what happened to McCain volunteer Ashley Todd here in Pittsburgh Wednesday night. Todd claims a robber carved a "B" (as in "Barack Obama") into her face after spotting a McCain bumper sticker on her car parked nearby.

Malkin writes on her website, in a post titled "Why that McCain volunteer’s 'mutilation' story smells awfully weird":

"Maaaaybe the alleged robber straddled her upside-down while carving it into her face."
"But I’ve got my doubts."

You can read the rest of Malkin's post at this link. Her readers take up the discussion in the comments section. As of this posting, major national liberal bloggers haven't touched the story. Watch for updates at the bottom of this post.

The skepticism appears to be fueled in part by the fact that the wound allegedly made during an attack appears to be remarkably symmetrical, neat, and uniformly minor. And it's backwards -- though it wouldn't appear so when looking at it in a mirror.

My first reaction when I saw the photo of McCain volunteer Ashley Todd: someone mistakenly reversed the image... but, no. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story reports that "the man then carved the 'B' into Todd's right cheek", as it appears in the photo.

Ashley Todd has now locked down her Twitter account updates, but here's a screenshot of her messages both before and after the reported incident, courtesy of her participation in a College Republicans group blog.

Click to Enlarge

At Steve Huff's True Crime website, bloggers and commenters are also parsing the details of the story.

Let's check out the scene of the incident with Google Map's Street View. Clicking in the image below allows you to zoom in, out, and around in a circle. Two clicks of the clockwise arrow, followed by two clicks of the plus button will show you the ATM.

View Larger Map

The area appears to be part of Bloomfield's business district -- between West Penn Hospital and the Bloomfield Bridge -- and appears to have restaurants and bars nearby.

Among my questions: are there any witnesses? How busy is that area at that time of evening? There does not appear to be a drive-through ATM at that location; where was the woman's car parked in relation to the sidewalk ATM? Was the McCain phone bank office where the victim was working near the scene? Is it clear why the robber stayed around to watch her go to her car instead of running off with the $60? Did she go back into the phone bank office or into any nearby business after the attack? Some news reports say the woman drove to a friend's home; how far is that from the scene? Other reports say the woman declined treatment at the scene -- is that correct? Who offered treatment and at what point? Another report says the attacker said "you're with the McCain campaign"; is that an accurate quote from the victim to police of the attacker's words? Does she know how he knew she was with the campaign, and not simply a person with a bumper sticker?

Two More Snapshots of Google Street View. Click to Enlarge.


The Smoking Gun includes more posts from Todd's Twitter account at the bottom of its website's story.

Andrew Sullivan weighs in here with his "Joe The Mugger?" post.

Update 2:

Huffington Post now has this entry by Jeffrey Feldman dealing with The Drudge Report's spin on the story. You can also read his analysis on Frameshop.



EdHeath said...

In the picture, the skin doesn’t look broken on her cheek, just irritated. If the picture were taken a month or six months later, I could believe that was a scar. But it looks, for all the world, like she took the pointy end of a nail file or the sharp end of a comb with a handle and dragged it across her cheek while looking in the rear view mirror or make up mirror of her car. By the way, why didn’t her assailant take the car? He has her on the ground and has her subdued enough to scratch a backwards “B” in her cheek, so why doesn’t he demand her keys?

I worked in that area for a couple of years in the evenings during tax season at the H & R Block that was right around there. I can’t remember which cross street is Pearl and which is Ella. Anyone who knows Bloomfield knows it is a mixed sort of area, with several bars and check cashing places mingling with mom and pop stores and upscale restaurants, coffee houses and art galleries. There is always a lot of foot traffic, including at nine o’ clock at night (that was when I would be leaving the Block office). That neighborhood is known for people who will still come to the aid someone in trouble. Even if she were on Pearl instead of Liberty, there are enough people who pass by that this attacker would have to be the Flash to avoid being noticed.

Maybe her $60 was stolen, although apparently the bank ATM camera may not have captured that. But this business of the “B”, it seems pretty improbable.

Chus said...

More information!: Ashley Todd: political victim or hoax?

Bard said...

Has anyone ever seen a black eye with no swelling?

She refused medical attention?

The B is scratched in as if the perpetrator was using a mirror.

Are all McCain supporters as stupid as this one?

HOAX.. But you know - it's already done all the damage it is going to do due to the mainstream trumpeting this on their propaganda channels.

That's the point of the lies - not to survive any inspection but to be used as propaganda bites timed for maximum effect so when they media 'catch up' and report it.. IF they ever do.. they have already served their purpose.

Anonymous said...

Joe the Mugger meets Sally the Self-Mutilator. Bad luck, Joe!

So many unanswered questions and conflicting accounts, like: Trib--treated at Shadyside Hosp., according to friend; PG - treated at undisclosed hospital; Trib--she's a student at Texas A&M, according to friend; PG -- she's a student at Blinn(?) College; Trib--she went to nearby friend's house; PG--she went to friend's house a mile away ... and so on.

Matt said...

I lived in Bloomfield for about four years - right on S. Matilda St., between Liberty Ave. and the busway. I can tell you it is a VERY safe neighborhood - some older folks still leave their doors unlocked at night. Liberty Ave. has a lot of foot traffic at night because of all the bars and restaurants, not to mention a MAJOR police presence. Also, this incident occurred only three blocks from West Penn Hospital. I know she wasn't familiar with the area, but the idea of her not getting medical attention is absolutely ludicrous. No, this whole thing is fishy as hell.

Anonymous said...

I have lived within two blocks of this "crime scene" and have walked past this ATM at all hours of the night -- 9 PM, 10 PM, 2 AM, 4 AM.

At 9 PM that street is full of pedestrians, but I guess that it is conceivably possible to be quickly mugged there.

The concept that this woman had her skin "carved" at 9PM on Liberty Avenue in "broad streetlight" is completely ludicrous. There is literally no way this could have possibly happened.

I hope that this is outed soon and that this woman gets the help and ridicule she deserves.

Anonymous said...

Ive read about this story on a couple sites, it seams as though everyone is convinced its a made up story, even the police department spokespersons statement made me think that also. I would think being assaulted and loosing consciousness may lead to memory loss from a concussion, bruising on the face especially under the eyes seem consistent with someone who wears glasses and gets punched or falls on their face.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question - who gave the photo to the media? Did the victim, or the police?

BarbaraWaWa said...

It's sad when the Republican Campaign is going so wrong that their supporters have to resort to lying AND blaming African Americans to get a point across. She has it all backwards. First of all, she looks as if she was beat up long before she left Texas and secondly, black men don't fondle.

Janis said...

As Bob Mayo points out, the photo popped up on conservative web sites. The photos I've seen with an imprint came from Look at that very incendiary site with its not so thinly veiled threats against Senator Obama, including: "Edgar Cayce's Prediction: America’s first communist president is shot and killed in the Oval Office just weeks after his inauguration in 2009...." and "THERE WILL BE BLOOD!!"

Merge Divide said...

From the perspective of a Pittsburgh local, this looks like more race-baiting from the GOP:

Read About It.

Fafhrd said...

The important thing - the thing most of you seem to relish forgetting - is that this photograph is not an artist's creation; it is the real image of someone who was attacked recently. A fellow American - a person - has been assaulted and beaten by SOMEBODY; the identity of the attacker has no bearing on the facts of her pain and/or shame. Amateur speculation (I am absolutely sure that none of you are law enforcement professionals) as to the specifics of the crime should be made respectfully and without recourse to slurs on the characters of the participants (attacker and victim both), people of whom none of you more than what you have READ in one- or two-page news briefs. Those of you who are using a woman in pain as a political punching bag are beneath contempt.

Doc said...

My b.s. detector went off when I heard this story originaly and now reading more about it I am really glad the police are investigating further. If she was attacked then it's a terrible tragedy but if she is trying to garner support or sympathy for a political campaign by in essence yelling fire in a racially charged political campaign they really need to throw the book at her.

enigmaforever said...

Since the reverend Shapden isn't involved it may be true. But if she was black and an obama supporter, You would not care if it was true or not. If they were Duke lacrosse players for example. Maybe a black girl that Sharden lies about.
and you whine about justice only if it fits your agenda. This may be a poor victim, and you want to crucify her, at this point let the police find out the truth. You who condemn at this point are the racists, and you know it in your hearts. YOu make me sick

Anonymous said...

Her "Black eye" sure is way too black to be a "Fresh" Bruise.
It takes more than a day for a black eye to turn that color black.
Initially the bruise would be more Red and Purple in color, it takes awhile for it to become that classic black eye color.
Anyone who has ever had a black eye knows this.

Anonymous said...

Why does it have to be a reflection of a B? Why can't it be an upside down B?

Doc said...

Why does it have to be a reflection of a B? Why can't it be an upside down B?

Equally as improbable for a real attack in my opinion.

enigmaforever said...

The next time a black girl says is attacked I expect you will show her the same respect that you have shown this possible victim, or you are according to the dictionary a racist.
You do not have to be white to be a racist. Where is reverend Sharpden now?

Anonymous said...

Anyone familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder? This is a classic case. I sympathize with the young woman because she is very ill and needs a lot of help. Ironically, the Democratic Party is the party more likely to subsidize the funding needed (counselors, social workers, and mental health clinics) to make this woman well.

The Media Bastard said...

Have you noticed the time stamps on her twitter Blog?
12:45am on the wrong side of pittsburgh.

DoktorZoom said...

Looks like Todd's own report to the police rules out the "alleged robber straddled her upside-down while carving it into her face" scenario.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story,

"Ms. Todd told police during at least five hours of questioning last night that her attacker said to her, 'You are going to be a Barack supporter.' She told police the man then sat on her chest, pinning both her hands down with his knees and used what she believed was a dull knife with a roughly 5-inch blade to carve the B."

So unless her story changes again, she's asserting that the attacker was facing her, right-side up.

Jerry said...

To help answer some questions -- If it is the Citizen's Bank ATM, that is a fairly dangerous one. Not Race Street dangerous, but there are more robberies there than one would expect in Bloomfield. And she may have been parked directly in front of the ATM; there is a bus stop there that people frequently park at.

Even so, the story is obviously made up.

KevinNYC said...

Fafhrd, you're quite missing the point. Yes, it's a real image. But we do not know if it's a real image of someone who WAS actually attacked.

It's the image of someone who CLAIMS she was attacked. We don't know if she was and the police have doubts about her story
Those of you who are using a woman in pain as a political punching bag are beneath contempt.

Um, What would you call someone who staged a racist hoax to make a political point? Would they be beneath contempt as well?

Bob Mayo said...

A few quick cleanup items:

First, to clean up a typo on my previous response, answering a reader question:
The photo did not come from police . It surfaced on conservative political websites; how those sites got it, I have not heard.

Next, a note for new readers: I moderate blog comments, and would rather not host off-topic battles here. In this case, that means the whole exchange stemming from Anonymous 10:54:09 AM and Anonymous 11:08:38 AM over immigration and ethic heritage -- is going away.

Anonymous said...

I live in the neighborhood and I can tell you, first of all, that it's one of the safest in the city - almost all families, old people who have been there FOREVER, and students. I use that Citizen's at night very frequently.
There undoubtedly would have been people on the street at the time as there's a hospital nearby and lots of eateries and bars. The local business association also has security cameras mounted on many nearby buildings.
This whole thing stinks.

Cressida said...

@ person who noted the Twitter timestamps: Those timestamps are not in Eastern Standard Time (many computer timestamps aren't). She claimed this attack happened at 8:45 PM, not after midnight. Also, Bloomfield is not "the wrong side of the tracks" (I'm a Pittsburgher, I live in a bordering neighborhood)

She may not have even meant "the wrong side" of Pittsburgh in that way. Pittsburgh has "sides". We have a North Side and a South Side and an East End (though someone who is not from here may call it the East Side, given the other two are known as "sides").

Michele said...

As a resident of Bloomfield I agree that it is VERY safe. I walk frequently with my two children at that time of night. Yes, there may have been a mugging, but to be held down and attacked like that, with the fighting and screaming that would have been going on, someone would have intervened. Also that is a very carefully carved "B" IMO for someone who surely would have been wiggling and fighting as someone carved into her I should think. Sounds awefully fishy to me.
If she truly was mugged I am sorry, but to set things up to advance the political campaign of her candidate, drag my neighborhood threw the mud....
Well, I guess if you can't win on issues, resort to mud and lies huh???

Maria said...

First, thanks for all the maps and links.

It is more than curious that according to the police there is no ATM picture of her withdrawing the $60.

PaLying, Witch and the Wardrobe said...

My question is, why would this young woman do this? Is she mentally disturbed? Craving attention? So blinded by racism she can no longer tell fantasy from reality? In despair because McCain and Palin are walking disasters and likely to lose not only Pennsylvania but the election? Off her medications? Delusional? It's like Faulkner's famous story "That Evening Sun" redux, circa 2008, though no one is going to fly off the racist rails like the white men did in that fictional story. People see right through this gross phony just like they see through all the Republicans' lies. The country isn't falling for them any more, Bush-Cheney and the GOP have destroyed everything in their wake, and lies aren't going to change this basic, undeniable reality!

Did Miss Ashley Todd think that attempting to smear Obama, Blacks, Black men, Pittsburgh, this Italian-American neighborhood, and, ultimately herself as a pathological liar, fake and soon-to-be felon, would help McCain's debacle of a campaign? Did she really think it was okay to add on that she was sexually abused, given that countless girls and women really are raped, fondled, harrassed, and assaulted every single day? Is this serious issue just another joke to her delusional Republican mind? Couldn't someone have told her that when you get punched in the eye, your eye itself is bloodshot for DAYS afterwards, swollen, that the bruise itself, especially on pale skin like hers, would probably be multicolored, not just kohl-dark, and that even her cheek below the bruised eye would probably show puffiness and redness? And why would she refuse medical attention given the nature of the attacks she describes? Especially having had a reverse B carved into her cheek! Doesn't she realize she could develop tetanus or worse? How DUMB is this young faker?

She had just better hope the legal authorities in that part of Pennsylvania are lenient, understanding and pro-Republican. This is a horrible hoax to perpetrate right before one of the most momentous elections in recent history, and it makes her, the McCain-Palin campaign, and Republicans look very desperate and very, very, very bad.

Michele said...

Maria yes, if that is so that is very curious esp since there is a camera right above said ATM

Rebecca said...

My youngest son lives in that neighborhood and in fact that's his ATM; we eat along that block all the time. At that hour it is still jumping as the area has become a desirable college neighborhood, in addition to still being somewhat of an ethnic Italian area.

I agree with the commenters who said there is no way someone could have been sexually assaulted and carved up without attracting attention. A quick robbery maybe, but again, the injuries are inconsistent. It's true that a "black eye" doesn't look black for at least a day or so. At first it just looks swollen and puffy. So either she has make-up on or her boyfriend beat her up earlier in the week.

Does anyone remember Susan Smith? Drowned her own kids and then blamed a big black man? I think that if the McCain campaign thought there was any truth to this story they'd be right here in Pittsburgh trumpeting it from the rooftops, that they are acting standoffish is the best evidence of all that the story is likely bogus.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the guy is dyslexic. She used and eraser to do this to herself. Bristol Palin probably gave her the idea.

Anonymous said...

What kind of "dull knife" did this mad man use? A butter knife?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Susan Smith, Charles Stewart, Tawana Brawley, sheesh, there's a long list like this. None of them faked an attack to promote a presidential campaign. That's a new low.

PaLying, Faulkner's story is "Dry September."

Sweeney Todd said...

# Breaking News
# A Pittsburgh police commander says a volunteer for the McCain campaign who reported being robbed and attacked near a bank ATM in Bloomfield has confessed to making up the story. Police say charges will be filed. More details to follow.

Doc said...

My question is, why would this young woman do this?

If this is in fact a hoax:
She got a phone call from both McCain and Palin and a bunch of national attention (including us wasting time at work commenting about her) so far. So my bet is that she was wanting attention and didn't realize what kind of racial problems it causes (See Jennifer Wilbanks or Susan Smith) when you make up accusations like this and it certainly doesn't help anything that she is a campaign worker for McCain.

If it's not a hoax:
Catch whoever is responsible and charge them with a hate crime.

Clay Burell said...

Just a quick thanks for a job well-done: the questions for readers (and those reader responses), the Google Maps and neighborhood description, the Twitter screenshot, the links - all a fine case of citizen journalism.

As an ex-Southerner watching this all unfold from Korea - and feeling pretty powerless - it's good to see people like you questioning what too many people are simply swallowing.

Michele said...

Anonymous said...

With regard to the Twitter blog page timestamps - someone had mentioned that they are not on EST - how do we know that? If they are EST, then her story does not hold water as she claims she is looking for an ATM just after 12 midnight and she said the 'attack' happened around 9 PM. I have another question - was she "Twittering" while she was driving? If so, why would you do that and why would you put that sort of information on a blog? Her cavalier comment timestamped at about 3 AM that she has had quite a night and will be blogging all about it does not sound like it is coming from someone who has just been through a harrowing, life-threatening situation and should be in a lot of pain (after being punched, kicked, and cut).
I suggest that she either A) was robbed at an ATM,and to add drama to make a great addition to her Republican based Twitter blog she applied some black make-up under her eye (eye shadow/smudged mascara or the like), and took a nail file or something similar to her own face in the rear-view mirror and then drove to her friend's home with this fantastic story of being robbed and *gasp* beaten and disfigured because she supports McCain. What a great Twitter sensation! She probably didn't stop to think that this story would spread like wildfire across the internet/media as it has.

Anonymous said...

Everybody has it all wrong. the "B" is for Bloomfield! Bloomfield in tha howse!!!

Bob Mayo said...

Pittsburgh Police confirm to WTAE Channel 4 Action News Reporter Paul Van Osdol: Ashley Todd now tells investigators she made up the story. She will be charged with filing a false report. Details to follow. I've put up a new post.

Anonymous said...

fahfrd: I would agree, but SHE made it political!! I guess it will come out what REALLY happened to her? Maybe? Some sort of story from her? But it remains that she and SHE ALONE made it political and I guess racial for that matter.
Is ANY of the story true?? Was there really an attack, or is it a boyfriend gone wrong? Walk into a door and decide to get some publicity? Young people made this society in which NOTHING is private, don't they think it applies to them?!

Anonymous said...

I was not surprised to hear that this is a hoax. Her story was not believable from the beginning. I used to live in Bloomfield, and it is one of the safest areas in Pittsburgh to walk through. Too bad that McCains supporters have to resort to someting this low! This is beyond low! Worse is that a black man was accused in another story! When will the racism end!Now this has drawn national attention, and comments from the Presidential candidates. Will McCains campaign appolize on her behalf? I'd certainly like to hear it.

mrsgordon said...

i was reading this and discussing it with my coworkers this morning. i am the only one at work that is on Obama's side, so basically- i heard all the BS about race, ethnicity, gender.. a black man jumping on a poor white woman. i argued all day telling them that it just does not sound right on how she explained it to the police- i went to multiple sites about this report, to get more details. now that i read the latest update on this report, i sent out an email of the updated link to my coworkers right away. of course, just as i expected-no one responded but one did come up to me and said that the police are looking at her situation all wrong.. R U KIDDING ME??? from experience, i had a black eye before- abused by an ex boyfriend-raped multiple times, AND FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE UP SUCH EXPERIENCES IS JUST A BLOW TO ONES THAT HAVE BEEN THERE. I don't understand it. others want to make up something for attention. when the rest of us that really needs it get a blame instead. this woman need MENTAL HELP.. i wonder what Mccain and Palin said to her when they called her.

Anonymous said...

I recommend that everyone read a "Brief for Whitey" by Pat Buchanan just to really understand the point of view of the Right Wingers.

Anonymous said...

I recommend that everyone read a "Brief for Whitey" by Pat Buchanan just to really understand the point of view of the Right Wingers.

Merge Divide said...

Isn't it ironic how quickly those who condemned the skeptics disappeared so quickly after 1:30, or so...

Fafhrd said...

I applaud skepticism, of course, as a healthy, legitimate part of dialog. Your definition of the word, "crude, sensationalist, self-referencing gossip mongering," I condemn as often as possible.

Anonymous said...

I want to know a whole lot more about Peter Feldman, McCain Spokesman and his involvement in newsflashing this.