So you know that ugly, Fox/Drudge-whipped up story of the young female McCain volunteer who was allegedly mugged and mutilated (with a ‘B’ cut into her face) by a black man at a Pittsburgh-area ATM?
Well — surprise, surprise — it was all a hoax. As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now.
The woman, Ashley Todd, made it all up. (And now faces charges.)
Which should mean, according to FOX News VP John Moody, that “McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.”
But this is an exaggeration. McCain’s quest may be over — but not because of its race-baiting and not because of this one ugly hoax.
Moody alternative scenario it itself rather ugly. He suggests that, if true, the incident would have prompted “some voters” to “revisit their support” for Obama. Why? Because of the actions of a deranged psychopath?
So McCain’s quest may not be over because of this, but does it hurt him? Yes. Because it’s an ugly distraction — and because, as Steve Benen explained:
I seriously doubt that the McCain campaign was involved in planning this hoax, but I’ve heard that the campaign was pushing this story to reporters rather aggressively last night, and Fox News and Drudge have been covering it with great enthusiasm (and without much skepticism).
In other words, the McCain campaign and its allies believed it was true, or wanted badly to believe it was true, and so were pushing it to score political points.
If you want ugly, there you go.
UPDATE 1: Jon Chait writes, “I don’t think the actions of one sick volunteer say anything at all about John McCain or his campaign. They do, however, tell us a lot about right-wing yellow journalists, from Drudge on down, who manipulated primitive racial-sexual fears for partisan gain.”
Sure, Fox and Drudge and some in the conservative blogosphere (thankfully, there were doubters like Michelle Malkin — even Ed Morrissey bought into it at first) deserve a lot of blame for this, as for so much else. But what if Benen is right and the McCain campaign was pushing the story as well? If that’s true, then the actions of a sick volunteer do say something, a massive something, about McCain and his campaign.
UPDATE 2: Well, it looks like Benen was right. The McCain campaign was pushing the story. Greg Sargent reports: “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.”
Disgusting. (But just what you’d expect from the McCain campaign.)