How I (almost) met Ellie Light

The story of “Ellie Light” crossed my consciousness when it first shot through the Internet, but it quickly fell back into the pixel abyss.

From what I could initially gather, a person using the name “Ellie Light” had sent a letter-to-the-editor to her local newspaper defending President Obama.

Well, as it turns out, she sent hundreds of letters, using different hometowns to make editorial page gatekeepers think she was a local Obama supporter.

At last count, “Ellie’s” spirited defense of the president made it into 60-plus newspapers, most alleged to be the writer’s hometown.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer was the first newspaper to notice the alleged scam and wrote about it. Others followed suit (not the least of which was Fox News), some of whom questioned the existence of “Ellie Light” and suggested it might be a case of liberal “Astroturfing”, meaning an attempt to make it look like a real grassroots support for the president, who in reality has suffered a big hit in popularity, as evidenced most recently by his beat-down in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts on Jan. 19.

Anyway, the “Ellie Light” story didn’t interest me much. Letter writing scammer and overworked newspaper editors. Ho-hum. I returned the story to the vast expanse of Internet space from which it came.

Then guess who e-mailed me not once, but twice, on Tuesday? “Ellie Light” sent me two identical e-mail at 3 a.m. in which she complained about newspapers who were PO’d about her letter-writing scam.

She wrote: “My name is Ellie Light, and Gannett Wisconsin Media has officially apologized to Fox News for publishing my letter. Michele Malkin’s website, based in Washington DC, had objected to my letter’s publication in Wisconsin media, because it wasn’t written by a Wisconsin resident.”

“Ellie” then attached her original letter and invited me to publish it. She gave no hometown, but gave a phone number.

So, what the heck. It was a travel day. I found myself at mid-morning in the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix with plenty of time to kill awaiting a flight, so I called “Ellie”.

No answer. But the automated answering voice invited me to leave a message. I did.

About 10 minutes later, the phone rang.

“Ellie?” I said.

“Yes,” a very deep voice on the other end replied.

“Are you a man or a woman?” I blurted, mentally kicking myself as I said it, thinking: What kind of dumb-ass question is that?

Too late. I asked it and “Ellie” replied: “Can’t you tell?” which I thought was an odd response to such a blunt question.

“No, I can’t tell,” I said. But I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot any more than I already had, so I said it didn’t matter, I had received the letter and I wanted to get more details about it.

“Ellie” then proceeded to sound downright evasive when it came to specifics and volunteered she was short of time because she was in an airport awaiting a flight.

“What airport?” I said.

“Phoenix.”

“Phoenix? What airline are you flying?”

“Southwest.”

“Well, hey. I’m flying Southwest out of Phoenix today, too. I’m at gate 4. How about we have a cup of coffee and sort this deal out.”

“Ellie” paused, stuttered initially when pressed about what gate she was at (gate 13 she eventually admitted) and sounded reluctant to meet face-to-face. After telling her I’d come to her, she said she’d come to me.

One hour later and after a second call, which met with the same assurances that she was “on her way”, “Ellie” never showed.

I’m disappointed about being stood up. I would have liked to have asked her about the controversy. Maybe even shoot a picture of the deep-voiced “Ellie”, who I imagined might look like the Liev Schreiber’s character in the movie “Mixed Nuts”.

But alas, “Ellie” couldn’t make the 200-yard, 10-gate trek to verify her story.

Subsequently, she’s told other reporters that she’s a traveling nurse and her real name is Barbara Brooks. She has called in to liberal radio shows to defend Obama and say that she’s in no way part of any sort of “Astroturfing.”

She’s just an honest-to-goodness, hard working, deep-throated itinerant nurse by day; and a real live Obama supporter by night, who innocently sent hundreds of spam letters and 3 a.m. e-mail to newspapers using a fake name and a fake hometown.

Brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but this reinforces all my biases about the Obama phenomenon — leadership and support you can’t seriously believe in.

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