Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 25, 2008

WHAT DID THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN PUSH AND WHEN DID IT PUSH IT?.... It's highly unlikely that Steve Schmidt, Rick Davis, and other senior McCain campaign aides were actively involved in pushing the Ashley Todd hoax. It's equally unlikely that anyone at the Crystal City headquarters had foreknowledge of the disgusting stunt and/or was involved in its coordination.

But now that the charade has ended and Todd will be held responsible for her deception, it's not unreasonable to expect a fuller accounting of the McCain campaign's role.

When it comes to national media, TNR's Gabriel Sherman spoke with two reporters who are are traveling with the McCain campaign and they said they "had not been told of the now-bogus assault story" on Thursday. Last night, however, NBC's Brian Williams noted on the air, "The McCain campaign steered reporters' attention to the story" on Thursday. It sounds like a point in need of clarification.

Moreover, Greg Sargent reports that McCain campaign officials in Pennsylvania actively pushed the hoax on local reporters, and promoted quotes from the attacker who didn't exist.

John McCain's Pennsylvania communications director told reporters in the state an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established -- and even told reporters outright that the "B" carved into the victim's cheek stood for "Barack," according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

John Verrilli, the news director for KDKA in Pittsburgh, told TPM Election Central that McCain's Pennsylvania campaign communications director gave one of his reporters a detailed version of the attack that included a claim that the alleged attacker said, "You're with the McCain campaign? I'm going to teach you a lesson."

Verrilli also told TPM that the McCain spokesperson had claimed that the "B" stood for Barack. According to Verrilli, the spokesperson also told KDKA that Sarah Palin had called the victim of the alleged attack, who has since admitted the story was a hoax.

What's more, there were, in fact, two Pittsburgh television stations that specifically quoted the McCain campaign on Thursday night as part of its coverage of the Todd story.

Given this, the connection between this racist, demagogic hoax and the McCain campaign, at least at the state level, is fairly obvious -- and in need of an explanation.

Will McCain hold anyone in his Pennsylvania office responsible for what transpired? Has anyone been disciplined or fired? Is McCain comfortable with his campaign's role in race-based fear mongering?

At this point, we're still waiting for some kind of reaction and/or repudiation from McCain campaign headquarters.

Steve Benen 8:01 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

Ashley Todd, Joe the Plumber, Sarah the Hockey Mom, Anti-elitist Lady de Rothchildfor a party that gets so much support from religious voters, they sure do have a lot of false icons.

Posted by: Danp on October 25, 2008 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Will McCain hold anyone in his Pennsylvania office responsible for what transpired? Has anyone been disciplined or fired? Is McCain comfortable with his campaign's role in race-based fear mongering?

No.

No.

Yes.

Posted by: jcricket on October 25, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

This is McCain's "Catch 22" moment. He's going to be damned by the hatemongers if he fires anyone over this, he's going to be damned by the Pennsylvania electorate if he just sweeps it under the rug, and he'll be damned by the vast majority of the nation if he tries to spin this into being Obama's fault.

Regardless of the course taken, McCain loses this election in ten days' time. It's now nothing more than a race to measure both the severity of that defeat, and the time required to recuperate from that defeat.

As if the GOP wasn't on life-support already....

Posted by: Steve W. on October 25, 2008 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

"We cannot be accountable for all the freaks and nuts who misinterpret the clearly enunciated message of national unity of our campaign. And John McCain is not George Wallace. And when will Obama start telling the truth about his associations with Bill Ayers?"

Posted by: lou on October 25, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I would hope this wasn't done maliciously. McCain's campaign is clearly desperate and grasping at straws. So perhaps this was just an honest act of desperation.
That said, heads should still roll over this. It (again) raises questions about the judgment of McCain and those he surrounds himself with. That's already a strong negative for McCain. If no one is thrown overboard, then it's essentially another accountability free zone. For a guy trying to distance himself from Bush's failures, this is a headlong dive in the wrong direction.

Posted by: JoeW on October 25, 2008 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

he's going to be damned by the Pennsylvania electorate Steve W

I hope so. So far I haven't seen a single mention on TV that connects this hoax with McCain's strategy that relies on a Pennsylvania victory. You'd think someone would pick up on it.

Posted by: Danp on October 25, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

And when will Obama start telling the truth about his associations with Bill Ayers?"

Uh, that would be in the third debate when McCain asked him directly?

Perhaps you missed it while you and the buds where drinking Heffienwieser and singing "We March on England".

Posted by: SnarkyShark on October 25, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

It's highly unlikely that Steve Schmidt, Rick Davis, and other senior McCain campaign aides were actively involved in pushing the Ashley Todd hoax.

I honestly don't know why you would give a Rove disciple like Schmidt the benefit of that doubt.

Posted by: Glenn on October 25, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ashley Todd was just a pathetic loser. I've met lots of people like that. Bill Ayers, however, was a terrorist. Voters should remember that.

Posted by: Al on October 25, 2008 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

snarky, just in case you didn't catch it, my comment was intended to preemptively encapsulate the McCain campaign's response. Its early.

Posted by: lou on October 25, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Ashley Todd was just a pathetic loser. I've met lots of people like that. Bill Ayers, however, was a terrorist. Voters should remember that.

I'm sure they're all planning on having it firmly in mind the next time Ayers is running for office. Meanwhile, they've obviously come to the very firm and correct conclusion that it has nothing to do with THIS election.

Posted by: DrBB on October 25, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Al,
Without at all coming to the defense of whatever relationship Obama had with Ayers, ask yourself: Which is the preferable narrative for a campaign to find itself in the possession of--a pretty-clear link between the story of a "pathetic loser" and the surrogates and operatives of a campaign who "steered" (and worse) said "loser's" story to the Pittsburgh media; or a clear, repeated disavowals by a candidate of the long-past despicable acts of an associate?--which acts, by the way, no one in this age of the War on Terror had seen fit to make any sort of hay of for almost 40 years now, until, this year, it suited the purposes of some to try to do so.

Not that terrorism is not a real threat, but anyone wanting to make a claim that the War on Terror has been to some extent politically-motivated need look no further than the Ayers stuff as a case in point.

Posted by: John B. on October 25, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

The "B" stood for Bristol. That's the reason it was backwards.

Posted by: on October 25, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Lou, I saw the quote marks and got your drift.

Republicans have been incompetent in governance for a long time but brilliant at running slimy campaigns that always seem to fool just enough people. This year, their playbook (the one their best and brightest have been honing for 20+ yrs) has been thrown out the window, and yet, they are desperately clinging onto it for answers to a new kind of political climate.
I say good riddance.
Now, if only the popularity of Fox and the wingnut radio will follow suit!

Posted by: Jim on October 25, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Newt where are you? Your big mouth is needed to put the proper spin on this out of control story. Your's and Rush's following will appreciate anything that you can do to put the blame on the liberals.

Posted by: Ted76 on October 25, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

What makes me angry as a former Pittsburgher is that the McCain campaign's response has been to slander reporters and police officers rather than admit a mistake. Indeed, it seems clear that both reporters and police were very responsible in their reaction to a potentially explosive situation, and to suggest that the police pushed a bad storyline AND the reporters were sloppy with their quotations is disgraceful. Yinzers (rightly) reacted with skepticism and caution because the details just didn't make sense (the rough-at-the-edges but roundly middle class neighborhood of Bloomfield is the bad side of Pittsburgh? A prolonged attack occurred on the mail drag, which even at 9 is filled with old Italian families and university students? Give me a break!). And while I do not believe that the McCain national HQ cleared the comments made by their local representatives, their response seems to follow the same pattern as Todd's original accusation--do something incredibly stupid and then blame innocent people without any regard for the damage their lies might do.

Posted by: cate on October 25, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

JCricket beat me to it, but obviously No, No, and -- um ... does anyone know if McCain is in charge of whether he feels comfortable? That may be the only thing he is in charge of in his campaign.

Posted by: on October 25, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The "B" is backwards because she did it using a mirror.

Posted by: coldhotel on October 25, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Via Juan Cole:

Before the revelation that the report was false, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said that McCain and running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin "spoke to the victim and her family after learning about the incident."
Posted by: koreyel on October 25, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, we're still waiting for some kind of reaction and/or repudiation from McCain campaign headquarters

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on October 25, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Just another factoid: the big black man must have been left-handed and dyslexic; he carved a backwards B on the right side of her face while sitting on her chest, so CSI should be able to locate him very easily. Run his description through FBI records, check all the schools he might have attended to find a left-handed dyslexic black man/boy.Pretty easy to close this case in an hour, like they do on TV all the time. I can hardly wait for that episode!

ecaep,
nhoj ts

Posted by: st john on October 25, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why the media/blogs are so quick to assume that no one from the McCain camp had prior knowledge of this - I'm not saying they did, but I think it should be looked into. Doesn't it seem very coincidental that Ms. Todd (a member of the College Repubs) had only moved to PA 2 weeks ago, right around the time McCain said he had to win PA? And that Palin had a rally scheduled in Pittsburgh 2 days after the supposed "attack"? Can you just imagine what Palin would have said at the rally if the hoax had not been discovered? Sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one...WMD, anyone?

Posted by: Davo on October 25, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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