Saturday, October 25, 2008

Newport Daily News runs fake story

If you looked at page A10 of the Newport Daily News on Friday you would have noticed the following brief story listed under "Briefs":

Woman: Robber cut her over McCain sticker

PITTSBURGH -- A woman robbed at knifepoint at a Pittsburgh ATM told police her attacker knocked her down and carved a "B" in her face after noticing a John McCain sticker on her car.

Police say the victim refused medical attention for the wound. An officer saw the injury, but a police report does not describe its size or severity.

Police said the woman was withdrawing money at 9 p.m. Wednesday when a man approached her from behind, put a knife to her neck and demanded money. She says she gavehim $60.

The woman told police the robber then noticed the bumper sticker, punched her in the back of the head, knocked her down and carved a"B" on her face.


Sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it? There's only one problem. It never happened. The woman, a 20-year-old McCain campaign volunteer from Texas named Ashley Todd, made the whole thing up in an effort to stir up racial animosity during the upcoming presidential election.

This presents the NDN with a problem. Having run the story, how will they respond to news that it was a hoax? Will they give the whole thing a pass, since their original story was only a four-paragraph "brief"? Will they run an itty-bitty fifteen-word correction? (I couldn't help noticing that the weekend edition of the NDN didn't include a correction, or indeed mention the story at all.)

It would be a shame if they did, because it turns out there's more to the story. The McCain campaign's Pennsylvania communications director was instrumental in pushing the story in the first place, calling two Pittsburgh TV stations to tell them that, yes, the attack was politically motivated, and quoting the attacker as saying, "You're with the McCain campaign? I'm going to teach you a lesson."

What's more, the McCain campaign continued to hype the story, calling up national reporters and telling them that both Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin had called up the poor brutalized victim. Needless to say, once the story was revealed to be a hoax, the McCainiacs tried to deny their involvement, but the local reporters are standing by their story that they got the details from the McCain campaign. No less a person than John Moody, Executive VP of the Fox News Network, wrote that "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

There were plenty of people who thought the whole story sounded fishy, especially when a photo of Todd appeared, and we found out that the "B" that had been carved in her face was backwards (a pretty clear indication that Todd did the carving herself while looking in a mirror). One of those people was Michelle Malkin, a hyper-partisan right-wing blogger. As early as 6:43 p.m. Thursday evening, Malkin was questioning the story. Bear in mind, Malkin is best known for posts like this one in which she compares Obama's tax plan to the ethnic cleansing of white farmers in Zimbabwe, and for this notoriously bizarre video. And yet, she was more skeptical about the Todd story than the Newport Daily News. You have to wonder what's going on when someone like Malkin displays a better instinct for news than the professionals at the NDN.

I look forward to seeing what (if any) response appears in Monday's paper.

UPDATE 10/28/08: Monday's paper does indeed have another story on the incident, on page A7, in the "Nation & World" section. It's a fairly brief Associated Press story that mentions the bare facts of the story. It doesn't mention the McCain campaign's role in pushing the story, nor their later lying denial that they were pushing the story. There's also no mention of the NDN running the original fake story. Sigh.
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