We know from Talking Points Memo that the McCain campaign in Pennsylvania flogged the false McCain volunteer mutilation story to the media:
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.It was a story on Countdown last night:
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.
The KDKA reporter had called McCain's campaign office for details after seeing the story -- sans details -- teased on Drudge.
The McCain spokesperson's claims -- which came in the midst of extraordinary and heated conversations late yesterday between the McCain campaign, local TV stations, and the Obama camp, as the early version of the story rocketed around the political world -- is significant because it reveals a McCain official pushing a version of the story that was far more explosive than the available or confirmed facts permitted at the time.
And, Brian Williams said on NBC News:
"...the McCain campaign steered reporters' attention to the story yesterday..."
So, fine. It's clear that the McCain camp pushed the hell out of the story and that even McCain and Palin themselves got directly involved by personally calling Ashley Todd, but here's what's catching my interest.
1) From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:What we do know is that a young woman with self-confessed mental problems self-inflicted a "B" scratch on her face. She did not initially want medical attention. Nor did she wish to make a police report. She was urged/pushed? to do so. She seemingly initally did not mention any reference to McCain/Palin signage as being the a cause of the "attack." Nor did she report a sexual assault at first.Zone 5 detectives were handling the case initially, but it was turned over to the robbery squad last night after the case made national headlines.Question: Did she link the "attack" at all to a supposed Obama supporter in her initial interview? Did she have any "help" or suggestions made to her between interviews with the police?
When Ms. Todd reported the incident, "nowhere did she say to the officer that [the assailant] made reference to the bumper sticker. I don't know how she came to the conclusion that he noticed the sticker," Cmdr. Ross said.
2) Also, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:Mr. Garcia took the widely published picture of Ms. Todd with her injuries. He said he took several photographs with a digital camera to document what had happened. He said he only gave copies of the photos to police and Ms. Todd's employer, the College Republicans. One photo appeared on The Drudge Report on Thursday, setting off a storm of media attention.Question: How did the picture (along with the story) get to Drudge? Did it come from the College Republicans? Did it come from McCain's PA campaign offices via the College Republicans? We know he got it before the local media.
3) John Moody, Fox News Executive Vice President, said on his blog:"If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain's quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."Question: Did he suspect just how far into the story the McCain camp was?
Somehow between her initial police report and the story on Drudge this became a national political and racial football that attempted to slander Obama supporters, the ever-ready "dangerous, angry black male" and the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
I want the details on how that happened.
UPDATE: From TPM:
In response to our story, campaign spokesperson Brian Rogers told MSNBC that the campaign didn't provide those details to the local reporters, but that the police did, and the reporters were sloppy in attributing them to the McCain campaign (at the 0:54 mark):
So here's what the McCain camp would have you believe. Two different TV stations. Two different reporters. Neither could distinguish what they were told by the police (whom they presumably deal with on a daily basis) from what a campaign flack told them. So thorough is their sloppiness that even after the fact, upon reflection, both reporters stick by their stories, continuing to misattribute police statements to the campaign.
The McCain campaign denial also requires you to believe that, more than 12 hours after the concocted attack, the police -- who say they were suspicious of the hoaxster's account from the beginning -- started leaking to reporters an incendiary version of events that didn't even make it into the original police report of the incident. [Emphasis added]