WASHINGTON (AFP) — A John McCain campaign volunteer admitted she made up a racially and politically charged story of being robbed and having the letter "B" carved into her cheek by an assailant who saw a McCain sticker on her car, police said.
Ashley Todd, who is white, is being charged with filing a false police report after telling police she was assaulted by a large black man as she was withdrawing money from an automatic teller machine in an area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to the city's assistant chief of police investigations division, Maurita Bryant.
"Miss Todd stated that she made up the story which snowballed and got out of control," Bryant said at a briefing aired on local television channel WTAE's website. "Miss Todd stated she was not robbed and there was no six foot four (1m 93cm) black male attacker."
The report of Wednesday night's attack spread like wildfire in the US media Thursday and Friday, less than two weeks before Americans go to the polls November 4 to elect either the Republican McCain or his adversary, Democrat Barack Obama, to the White House.
Obama, who is ahead of McCain in national tracking polls, is on a historic quest to become the first African-American elected to the US presidency.
The assault reportedly prompted McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin to call Todd to offer their sympathies, while Obama's campaign released a statement condemning the violence.
Photos of the grim-faced Todd with a backwards "B" on her cheek and a black eye were splashed across the web and cable news stations Friday.
Bryant said Todd, 20, reportedly of College Station, Texas, "indicated she has prior mental problems and that she does not remember how the backward letter 'B' got on her face."
"When she looked in the rearview mirror and saw the 'B' on her face, she said she thought of Barack," Bryant said.
Police said they believe she carved the letter into her own cheek and then went to a friend's house, where friends pressed her to contact police.
Detectives spent hours questioning Todd late Thursday and noted several inconsistencies in her story. When she came back early Friday for further questioning, she confessed her story had been a fabrication, police said.
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