Fact Sheet - Ayers and Obama
Background: William Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical leftist group that from 1969 to the mid-'70s conducted several bombings of government institutions. Ayers served on the group's Central Committee. The Weather Underground bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, military installations, and police stations. In all, seven people were killed. In 1981, two police officers and one security guard were killed by members of the Weather Underground in the robbery of a Brinks truck in New York state. After Ayers married Bernardine Dohrn, also a member of the Weather Underground (who was described by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as "the most dangerous woman in America"), they settled in Chicago.
Fact: Bernardine Dohrn had this to say in response to the Charles Manson murders, which she romanticized as a revolutionary coup at a Flint, Mich., Weatherman War Council in December 1969: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" Dohrn later stated this was meant as a "joke."
Fact: In 1969, Bernardine Dohrn and other members of the Weather Underground traveled to Cuba and met with representatives of the North Vietnam and Cuban governments.
Fact: In 1970, Ayers explained what the Weather Underground was all about: "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home; kill your parents; that's where it's really at."
Fact: Both Ayers and Dohrn lived on the run from authorities from approximately 1970 to 1980. The case against Ayers and Dohrn was dropped due to illegal wiretaps and prosecutor misconduct. The FBI was conducting "black bag jobs," or illegal break-ins, in their pursuit of the Weather Underground. Some of these black bag jobs were authorized by Mark Felt, later to be known as "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame.
Fact: Shortly after turning themselves in, Dohrn and Ayers became legal guardians of the son of former members of the Weather Underground, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, after they were convicted of murder for their roles in a 1981 armored car robbery. Two police officers and one Brinks guard were killed in the robbery.
Fact: Starting in the mid-'90s, Ayers and Obama served on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Project. They served together on the board for approximately seven years. Ayers and Obama were tasked with the oversight of a $100 million budget. The board, under Obama's chairmanship the Annenberg project gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bill Ayers' projects promoting alternative schools. ["Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, Oct. 6, 2008]
Fact: From 1984 to 1988, Bernardine Dohrn was employed by the prestigious Chicago law firm Sidley Austin. She was hired by Howard Trienens, the head of the firm at that time and someone who knew Thomas G. Ayers, Bill's father. However, Dohrn's criminal record has prevented her from being admitted to either the New York or Illinois bar. "Dohrn didn't get a [law] license because she's stubborn . . . She wouldn't say she's sorry." [Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2008]
Fact: In 1991, Dohrn was hired by Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, as an adjunct professor of law, with the title "clinical associate professor of law." Thomas Ayers was a long-time member of the Northwestern Board of Trustees, and was named life trustee in 1987. [Source: Feb. 7, 2008 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC]
Fact: In 1994, Dohrn was quoted on her political beliefs: "I still see myself as a radical."
[Chepesiuk, Ron, "Sixties Radicals, Then and Now: Candid Conversations With Those Who Shaped the Era," McFarland & Company, Inc]
Fact: In 1995, Obama's first autobiography is released. In it he writes of his years in college, associating with radicals. "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk rock performance poets . . . When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated." [Obama, Barack, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Random House, Pages 100-101]
Fact: In 1995, Ayers and Dorn opened their Chicago Hyde Park home to host a political coming-out party for Barack Obama, when he ran for the state Senate. Someone who was at this party for Obama wrote that Ayers and Dohrn were launching him, "introducing him to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread." [Politico.com, Feb. 22, 2008]
Fact: From 1999-2002, Ayers and Obama served together on a second charitable foundation, The Woods Fund. While at the Woods Fund, they gave money to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church, which Obama attended, and a children and family center, where Dohrn worked. ["Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, Oct. 6, 2008]
Fact: In a 1996 interview, one year after hosting Barack Obama's coming-out party in their home, Ayers and Dohrn were profiled by "The NewsHour" on PBS. Ayers was asked, "Looking back, would you do it differently now?" He stated, "I doubt it . . . probably not."
Fact: Question to Obama in 2000, during his run for the U.S. Congress: "What is your argument, based on the one term that you served in the [Illinois] Senate so far, that makes you prepared for the Congress?"
Answer: "I would argue . . . my experience previous to elected office equips me for the job . . . I've chaired major philanthropic efforts in the city, like the Chicago Annenberg Challenge that gave $50 million to prompt school reform efforts throughout the city." [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-45A6I-N5I&NR=1]
Fact: In 2001, Ayers made a $200 campaign contribution to Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama.
Fact: In promoting his book "Fugitive Days" Ayers told The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." When asked if he would "do it all again," he said, "I don't want to discount the possibility."
Fact: Just days after 9/11, Ayers was quoted in The New York Times Magazine: "This society is not a just and decent place . . . We're living in a country where the election was stolen, and we didn't have a mass uprising. It's incredible. We're all asleep. The pundits all pat themselves on the back: 'God, what a great country'. . . It makes me want to puke."
Fact: In 2001, Ayers posed for a photograph in Chicago magazine, accompanying a profile of his book, which shows him stepping on an American flag. [www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2001/No-Regrets/]
Fact: In a 2001 profile, a writer quotes Ayers as saying, "I think there will be another mass political movement, because I believe that the kind of injustice that is built into our world will not go quietly into the night." [Chicago magazine, August 2001 online edition]
Fact: In his 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days," Ayers writes of the time he took part in bombing the Pentagon. "Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon. The sky was blue; the birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them."
Fact: In 2008, Ayers again denies he was ever a terrorist, writing on his blog: "The September 11 attacks were acts of terrorism, and the U.S. bombings in Viet Nam for a decade were acts of terrorism. Terrorism is never justifiable, even in a just cause . . . I've never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently."
Fact: In the 2008 presidential race, Obama downplays his association with Ayers, saying that he is just a "guy who lives in my neighborhood." [The Washington Post, Oct. 7, 2008]
Fact: David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, attempted to downplay the Obama/Ayers relationship: "Bill Ayers lives in his neighborhood. Their kids attend the same school . . . They're certainly friendly; they know each other, as anyone whose kids go to school together."
[Politico.com, Ben Smith, Feb. 26, 2008]
Fact: Obama's children never attended school with the Ayers children. Obama's children are ages 9 and 6. Ayers and Dohrn have two adult children, and they adopted a son from their fellow Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin. That son was born in 1981.
Fact: Chicago's Hyde Park residents speak of Obama and Ayers' relationship. "Neighbors said it's only natural that Obama would know Ayers and Dohrn, who often open their homes for gatherings filled with lively discussions about politics, arts, and social issues. Obama and his wife 'are part of our neighborhood and part of our social circle,' said Elizabeth Chandler, a neighbor of Ayers'." [ChicagoTribune.com, April 17, 2008]