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Editorial: Sensational Coverage Of Mugging Could Influence Voters

This story was written by Editorial Board, The Pitt News

An ongoing police investigation involving the violent mugging of a McCain-Palin campaign staffer has shed light on the way the media and campaigns continue to spin breaking news in the election.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh police are investigating a report by 20-year-old Ashley Todd of College Station, Texas, who said she was mugged in Bloomfield. Todd told police that the robber, a 6-feet-4-inch black man, became agitated after noticing the John McCain bumper sticker on her car, punched her in the head, knocked her down and carved a B into her face.

McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Peter Feldman told the Tribune-Review that McCain and Sarah Palin have both spoken to Todd on the phone.

A statement released by the Obama-Biden campaign said, Our thoughts and prayers are with the young woman for her to make a speedy recovery, and we hope that the person who perpetrated this crime is swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.

It is unclear what the B was meant to symbolize. As the story made its way to national news, many bloggers and political pundits have interpreted the B to stand for Barack Obama, based on Todds account of the mugger reacting to the McCain campaign sticker on her car.

The incident is no doubt grotesque and should make the news, but it has drawn an unusual and unnecessary amount of attention both by the national media and by the campaigns of John McCain and Obama. Muggings happen often in the Pittsburgh area, but Todds affiliation with the McCain campaign and the strange nature of the crime have garnered national interest.

Is this the appropriate response?

Many facts and details regarding the story are under investigation, including whether the incident was caught on tape and the motivations of the alleged mugger.

It is irresponsible to jump to conclusions that this crime is a horrific act of partisan hatred borne out of the heightened tension of the upcoming election. Tying the crime to Obama in any way only gives way to sensationalism and perpetuates fear in voters. And the McCain campaign, by responding so publicly, is already spinning the circumstance. This isolated crime should not be turned into a campaign smear tool.

At this time in the presidential campaign, Americans are following the news very closely and reacting strongly to what they see and hear about the candidates. The extreme emotional reactions that tend to crop up in the days before Election Day are what voters need to make sure they keep in check.

Palin and McCain have launched a full-force campaign in Western Pennsylvania this week, despite being more than 13 percentage points behind Obama-Biden in a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Were interested to see if this incident will have any effect in our so-called swing state whether it should or not.

Regardless of the meaning behind the violence, the reactions to this incident have clearly shown that tensions are running high in the final days leading up to Nov. 4. As weve encouraged before, voters should make educated choices on Election Day instead of succumbing to the sensationalist, negative media frenzy thats surrounding these candidates.

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