10 things to know about Bill Ayers
October 12, 2008
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
John McCain is hammering Barack Obama about his ties to Chicago
educator Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, a group
that used violence in the 1960s and 1970s to try to end the Vietnam War.
For a week now, the McCain-Palin ticket has been making Ayers an
issue. And the attacks continued Friday, with an ad that calls Ayers
the "leader of a terrorist group that bombed the U.S. Capitol." The
ad also says "Obama's first campaign was launched at a gathering at
Mr. Ayers' home."
But is everything the Republicans are saying true? Here's a look at
the Obama-Ayers relationship.
1. Was Ayers the leader of a terrorist group?
The FBI labeled the Weather Underground "a domestic terrorist group"
whose members took credit for bombings of the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon
and other government buildings. The bombings were designed to cause
property damage, not hurt people. Ayers never has been accused of
But three Weather Underground members accidentally killed themselves
while making bombs in New York City in 1970. In 1981, two police
officers and a security guard were killed when other members of the
group committed an armed robbery.
2. How long was Ayers "underground"?
Ayers and his wife, Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn, were
on the lam 10 years before surrendering in 1980.
3. Were they ever convicted of "terrorism" charges?
No. Ayers faced federal riot and bombing-conspiracy charges, but
those charges were dropped because of illegal wiretaps, break-ins and
mail interceptions by authorities. Dohrn served less than a year
behind bars for non-bombing activities tied to the group.
4. How are Ayers and Dohrn viewed now?
At least before this campaign, they were mainly seen as respected
college professors. After getting his doctorate in education at
Columbia University, Ayers joined the University of Illinois, where
he gained a national reputation pushing innovative -- some say
controversial -- approaches to educating at-risk youth. Dohrn has a
national reputation for pushing reforms of the juvenile justice
system. Ayers has published 15 books. He sits on civic boards with
Mayor Daley, who in 1997 awarded Ayers the city's "Citizen of the
Year" award. Ayers and Dohrn live in Hyde Park, not far from the Obamas.
5. So how well do Ayers and Obama know each other?
Ayers and Obama served on separate boards associated with the Chicago
Annenberg Challenge, an education-reform group that Obama began
chairing in March 1995 and continued to work with through 2000. Ayers
served on the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, which made
recommendations to the board on grant awards during those years.
Ayers and Obama occasionally would see each other in those roles.
Also, Ayers served alongside Obama between December 1999 and December
2002 on the board of the not-for-profit Woods Fund of Chicago. That
board met four times a year, and members would see each other at
dinners the group hosted.
The RNC's statement that "Obama's first campaign was launched at a
gathering at Mr. Ayers' home" stems from a 1995 "meet-and-greet"
coffee that Ayers and Dohrn held for Obama at their home when Obama
was making his first run for the Illinois Senate. Obama's
presidential campaign has described the event as an opportunity for
Ayers and Dohrn to introduce Obama to their neighbors.
In 2001, Ayers gave $200 to Obama's campaign. A year ago, the two met
walking through the neighborhood where they both live.
6. How does Ayers respond to the Republicans' charges?
He doesn't. He has declined to comment to the Sun-Times or any other
media since Sen. Hillary Clinton first raised him as a potential
problem for Obama in April during the Democratic primary.
7. What does Obama say about Ayers?
During a primary debate, Obama underplayed his relationship with
Ayers: "This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor
of English in Chicago, who I know, and who I have not received some
official endorsement from," Obama said. "He's not somebody who I
exchange ideas from on a regular basis. The notion that somehow, as a
consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40
years ago when I was 8 years old somehow reflects on me and my
values, doesn't make much sense."
8. Is it fair for McCain to criticize Obama on this issue?
Factcheck.org has this take: "Voters may differ in how they see
Ayers, or how they see Obama's interactions with him. We're making no
judgment calls on those matters. What we object to are the
McCain-Palin campaign's attempts to sway voters -- in ads and on the
stump -- with false and misleading statements about the relationship,
which was never very close. And Ayers is more than a former
'terrorist,' he's also a well-known figure in the field of education."
9. Has Ayers ever apologized for what he did with the Weather Underground?
Not exactly. In 2001, Ayers told the Sun-Times he regretted that
"people were hurt, that three of my dear friends were killed, that we
were stupid, immature, intolerant and unwise. I regret that I hurt
people's feelings." He did not regret "throwing myself as
wholeheartedly as I could figure out into opposition to war and to
the system of racial injustice."
A review of Ayers' memoir Fugitive Days that appeared in the New York
Times on Sept. 11, 2001, quoted Ayers saying, "I don't regret setting
bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." Three days after the terrorist
attacks, Ayers clarified: "My memoir is, from start to finish, a
condemnation of terrorism . . ."
10. Are all former alleged terrorists/radicals shunned?
No. Former IRA bomber Gerry Adams is welcomed at the White House as a
peacemaker. Former PLO leader Yasser Arafat was too. Former Students
for a Democratic Society member and Ayers friend Tom Hayden was
elected to the California State Assembly. Former Black Panther Bobby
Rush is a congressman representing Chicago, as is former Puerto Rican
independence activist Luis Gutierrez.
Ayers Has Not Left Radicalism Behind
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Election '08: Bill Ayers isn't out bombing anymore, but he has never
stopped being a radical. His ties to hostile Marxist regimes remain,
raising more questions about Barack Obama's refusal to fully repudiate him.
Distancing himself, as Obama did, from the "detestable acts" of the
founder of the Weather Underground terror organization, is one thing.
Ayers' terror attacks in armed robbery, police murder, attempted
killings of U.S. troops, and bombings of U.S. democratic institutions
to advance a Marxist revolution were quite easy to disavow.
But Ayers' supporters say his violence was all a long time ago.
Obama emphasized that his friend's terror acts happened "when I was
eight years old." Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told the New York
Times last week "he's done a lot of good in this city and
nationally." He added: "This is 2008. People make mistakes. You judge
a person by his whole life."
But a look at Ayers' whole life suggests he hasn't changed much more
than his tactics. He's still the same radical he always was.
Ayers' terrorist acts in the 1970s didn't just blow in out of
nowhere. Ayers moved to urban guerrilla violence after finding Tom
Hayden's riot-prone Students for a Democratic Society too tame. He
was inspired by the Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro, who toppled a
democracy a decade earlier.
Ayers' Weathermen were part of a broad upsurge of Marxist guerrilla
movements across the hemisphere, using similar tactics to establish
Cuba-style regimes. These children of the rich infiltrated
universities and spread violence against the "establishment," just as
At the time Ayers was targeting the Pentagon, Argentina's communist
ERP began terror attacks in 1969, triggering a Dirty War by 1976.
Brazil's MR-8 shot police and kidnapped a U.S. ambassador in 1969. In
Colombia, the FARC unleashed terror in 1966, and the M-19 was born in
1970. Uruguay's Tupamaros began bombing and kidnapping in 1970.
Peru's Shining Path started university agitation in 1973 and
full-blown war by 1980. The Weather Underground, founded in 1969, was
the same leftist revolution, U.S.-style.
Operating underground, Ayers' Weathermen aligned closely with
Castro's Cuba, which aided Marxist terror groups. Some Weathermen on
the run found asylum in Havana; others, like Mark Rudd, were trained
by the KGB there. Cuba helped Weathermen on the lam by letting them
secretly pass messages through Cuba's embassy in Canada, says FBI
informant Larry Grathwohl.
Like many at the time, Ayers was a child of privilege from a wealthy
family who got away with his crimes at a time when the West had lost
its will. "Guilty as sin, free as a bird America is a great
country," Ayers taunted after walking free on a technicality.
Ayers is too smart to continue bombing, but remains a "revolutionary"
through other means. He remains proud of his violent past and
alignment with America's enemies.
"I don't regret setting bombs," he famously told the New York Times.
"I feel we didn't do enough." His terrorist past reviled here, he's
found a welcome embrace in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
Obama says he barely knows him, but in the years when he was meeting
and serving together on the Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund,
as well as launching his career with a fundraiser in Ayers' Che
Guevara-festooned house, Ayers made at least four Marxist pilgrimages
to Caracas to praise Chavez's dictatorial regime.
He sits on the board of a Venezuelan government think tank called
Miranda International Center, focused on bringing Cuba-style
education to Venezuelan school children.
Recent polls show this turning of schools toward Marxist
indoctrination terrifies average Venezuelans. Venezuelan dissidents
also accuse Miranda of rewriting constitutions in South America to
grant leftist leaders absolute power, with some saying Ayers had a
role in 2007's effort to give Chavez total power inside Venezuela.
It's not surprising. Ayers' violent methods may have influenced
Chavez's rise to power in 1998. Like Ayers' terrorists, Chavez's
campaign began with Weather Underground-style hijackings of bank
trucks. At the same time, captured computer documents show that
Chavez took $150,000 from FARC while in prison.
Ayers' Miranda biography calls him "leader of the revolutionary and
anti-imperialist group The Weather Underground which initiated armed
struggle against the government of the USA for more than 10 years
from the heart of the empire."
It continues: "Now, he's a professor of education and executive
researcher of the University of Illinois in Chicago. He's developed
courses around urban reform of schools, problems of capitalist
education, and research. He is the author or editor of more than 11
books, including a memoir titled Fugitive Days on the struggle
against the government of the United States."
In other words, education isn't the best credential for this
supposedly distinguished professor his terrorist past is.
It's a good guess that his biography on the Miranda site was written
by Ayers himself. Ayers' Miranda peers are a soup of the
international far left: a FARC apologist from Colombia, a Che-crazy
UCLA professor named Peter McLaren, and activist Eva Golinger, who
was closely tied to Philip Agee, the fugitive CIA traitor who died
earlier this year in Havana.
Meanwhile, Ayers' stepson Chesa Boudin has close Venezuelan ties,
too. He identified himself as a foreign-policy adviser intern to
Venezuela's government in 2005. He had an office next to Chavez's own
in the presidential palace. Not surprising, since Boudin's
grandfather is Fidel Castro's personal attorney, and his mother is
jailed Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin. His family ties
give him street cred to communists.
This, then, is Bill Ayers.
Obama claims he had no idea about his terrorist past when he met him,
and hasn't talked to him since 2005.
But with the association going back to the 1980s and Ayers making no
secret of his radical views, this is hard to believe.
Given glowing profiles of Ayers and his past in the Chicago Tribune,
as writer Jonah Goldberg found, and Ayers' radical agenda in
education and philanthropy while Obama and Ayers served on charitable
projects, it's hard to imagine anything but a deep bond.
The reality is, either Obama is naive or he doesn't care that Ayers
remains an anti-American radical who would hurt his country.
His ties to the rising radicalism in Latin America continue. Could
anything be more useful to Chavez than to have someone like Ayers as
a go-between with a U.S. president? Obama still has repudiated only
Ayers' past terrorist actions. What about his present?
Obama High: No child left benign
Monday, October 13, 2008
Elected officials in Chicago made international news last week by
proposing to create a public high school for gay, lesbian and
The Pride Campus of the School for Social Justice is set to open with
600 students in 2010, and its curriculum promises to "teach the
history of all people who have been oppressed and the civil rights
movements that have led to social justice and queer studies."
Yet no American journalist covering the presidential race has queried
the Chicago-based Sen. Barack Obama about this radical development in
education reform: a key issue to which the young senator has
committed much of his public life and all of his executive experience.
From 1995 to 1999, Mr. Obama oversaw the Annenberg Challenge, a
nearly $100 million Chicago-based education-reform group co-founded
by unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.
Nor has any intrepid mainstream-media reporter looked into a greater
trend across the United States in segregating public school students
by politically correct "victim" class for the explicit purpose of
indoctrinating children in "social justice." This loaded political
term has been preached by such Obama allies and mentors as the Rev.
Jeremiah Wright, the Rev. Michael Pfleger and Mr. Ayers: committed
left-wing agitators all, and all off-limits to the working press.
So what exactly is "social justice"? This past Martin Luther King
Day, a group of social-welfare students at the University of
California at Berkeley got together and took a stab at defining it:
"Social justice is a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair
(re)distribution of resources, opportunities and responsibilities;
(2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers
all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full
potential; (4) and builds social solidarity and community capacity
for collaborative action."
Fitting the narrative, the Social Justice High School in Chicago was
created in an act of political protest. The first words on its main
campus' Web site at the "About Us" tab make it clear that public
funds are intended to develop future Moveon.org and ACORN-style
activists: "On May 13th, 2001, fourteen community residents of Little
Village neighborhood staged a nineteen-day hunger strike demanding
the construction of a new high school."
The protesters back then chanted: "Construyan la escuela ahora!"
("Build the school now!"), and victory was theirs. It was "Si, Se
Puede" in action, the Spanish-language Obama chant, and also, not at
all coincidentally, the slogan of self-described "social justice"
activist Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union.
It's not a conspiracy because conspiracies are actually hidden.
Mr. Obama, who proudly refuses to take money from lobbyists
representing parents, has publicly stated the "single most important
factor in determining a child's achievement is not the color of their
skin or where they come from; it's not who their parents are or how
much money they have. It's who their teacher is."
The Nation magazine uses the words of Rico Gutstein, a founding
member of Teachers for Social Justice and a colleague of Mr. Ayers at
the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Education, to
describe the group's pedagogy.
The magazine gave the example of running "probability simulations
using real data to understand the dynamics behind income inequality
or racial profiling." Mr. Gutstein called such exercises "examples of
lessons where you can really learn the math basics." Then he adds,
"but the purpose of learning the math actually becomes an entree
into, and a deeper understanding of, the political ramifications of
For students of history, this teaching theory adds up to many of the
reasons why the 20th century was so filled with misery and bloodshed
in the pursuit of a utopian political promise. If it weren't so
deeply appalling, it would be funny.
According to their press material, among the gay "heroes" to be
weaved into the curriculum at the Pride Campus are expatriate
American writer Gertrude Stein, as well as author James Baldwin, who
advocated a "Yankee-Doodle type Socialism" and spent many years
abroad attacking America.
Yet the Pride Campus refuses to acknowledge my personal gay hero,
Paul Lynde, whose historic one-liners were delivered with precision
during the heyday of "Hollywood Squares."
Mr. Lynde's crime? He was no victim of a dominant heterosexual
paradigm - as evidenced by his prime real estate in the center
square. And he didn't need social Marxist educrats to coddle his
psyche in order for him to reach the heights of American greatness.
Will the Pledge of Allegiance be scrapped at the Pride Campus for a
"pledge of tolerance?" Such is the trend where publicly funded
"social justice" curricula are promoted.
The Illinois School Code explicitly states: "No county, city, town,
township, school district or other public corporation shall make any
appropriation, or pay from any school fund anything in aid of any
church or sectarian purpose."
If the "social justice" coincidentally promoted by Mr. Wright and
Father Pfleger, is not sectarian, than what is? If sequestering gay
people to protect them from straight bullies is the stated goal, then
why will the school be majority-straight? How will the heterosexual
bullies have been weeded out? And why is the answer to bullying a
return to separate but equal?
Why hasn't Mr. Obama in his years in Illinois politics stepped in to
stop this blatant political sectarianism on the public's dime? Or is
it more likely that the School for Social Justice represents the sort
of fruit he sought to produce in his work with Mr. Ayers and others?
In 1990, the Boston Globe described Mr. Obama's "single-minded
concern for social justice." It seems that the likely president of
the United States is supportive of ghettoizing children based on
identity politics in order to make them politically active
collectivists. In addition, according to Stanley Kurtz at National
Review, the tens of millions of dollars doled out by Mr. Obama and
Mr. Ayers for education reform "failed to improve student achievement
in the 210 Chicago schools where it operated, according to the
Annenberg Challenge's final report."
Is a return to "separate but equal" and blatant political
brainwashing the "hope" and "change" American parents can look
forward to starting in the fall semester, 2009? One thing is for
certain, under President Obama home schooling will become a huge
Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site breitbart.com
and is co-author of "Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon
- the Case Against Celebrity."