October 6th, 2008
02:00 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain camp dismisses claim Obama didn’t know Ayers’ past

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/06/art.obama.pa.gi.jpg caption="McCain camp dismisses claim that Obama didn't know Ayers' past."]
(CNN) - John McCain’s campaign is dismissing statements by senior aides to Barack Obama that the Illinois senator had been unaware of former Weather Underground member William Ayers’ past when the two men met more than a decade ago.

“Does Barack Obama truly expect the American people to believe that he had no idea about his friend’s past as the infamous founder of the domestic terror group ‘The Weather Underground’ or is he just lying?” McCain-Palin spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. “If Obama really was unaware of Ayers' radical past, learning the truth doesn't seem to have had any effect on their friendship, since the senator later endorsed a book by Ayers, and served on the same charitable board and exchanged e-mails and calls for several more years.”

Obama senior strategist David Axelrod had made that claim in an interview with CNN's Jim Acosta that aired Monday. “I mean… when he went, he certainly, he didn’t know the history,” said Axelrod – the first time a top campaign aide had said Obama did not know about Ayers’ past when they met.

The remark came after days of attacks from Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin over Obama’s relationship with the controversial Ayers. On Monday, Palin described Ayers as one of Obama’s “earliest supporters” and Obama as “someone who sees America as ‘imperfect enough’ to work with a former domestic terrorist who targeted his own country.”

When CNN American Morning’s John Roberts asked Obama senior advisor Robert Gibbs Monday whether Axelrod’s statement was accurate, the campaign aide responded: "Look, if that's what David said, that is true. Look, again, this is a relationship... that Barack Obama has condemned the actions of Bill Ayers. This is somebody that The New York Times said Barack Obama's not close to - and again, John, this is a way of distracting the American people from what's important."

The Ayers charges are part of a new effort by the McCain campaign to raise doubts about Obama’s character and to portray him as an unknown risk. “Voters are left wondering who Obama is and what he stands for," the campaign said in a statement.

soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. Minksky

    What I want to know is did Obama ever express agreement with Ayers about the tactics used in his past. Ayers is no longer the same person he was when he was a kid and I don't care if there was a casual friendship between Obama and Ayers if Obama never said he supported domestic terrorism. This is a pretty tenuous relationship to be pushing

    I would rather a elect a guy who knows a guy who did something bad when he was a kid rather than elect a guy who actually did lots of bad things as a senator and as a husband!

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |

    There goes CNN again . . .Parroting debunked claims like they are gospel simply because they come from the McCain campaign. The NY Times and many other reputable news sources have already called this story for what it is . . .a non-story. Rather then calling them "friends" or repeating the words of people like Tucker Bounds with no critical analysis, reputable news outlets have called this a case of "crossed paths" or happenstance acquaintence. CNN-does no such thing in this post.

    CNN, if you want to be the voice of McCain's slime at least make sure you take some money for being a 527 for McCain.


    America deserves better CNN. America deserves truth.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Stacy from Loudoun County, VA

    Senator McCain, Governor Palin: Wall Street is tumbling, world banks are crumbling, jobless numbers are up, foreclosures are up, so let me ask you, where is your plan to address these problems?

    Wow, you guys are going so negative now, the tenor is sickening. I just had an independent buddy of mine tell me enough is enough. He was voting McCain, he told me he was voting for Barr.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |

    Now obama want us to believe that he didn’t know his past. Remember Barack Obama kicked off his political career in the guy's living room . Lies , lies , lies and more lies .obama no experience to trust will destroy America like the terrorist want .this is a back door attack by the terrorist.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Barney

    And WE dismiss McWarmonger/Pain – totally.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Lesley

    McCain has said he doesn't think Obama's ties to Ayres are close and now his campaign is pushing it out there. He also distanced himself from the Rev. Wright comments earlier during the primaries, said Obama doesn't share the pastor's views, etc. and now his campaign is going after it again. John McCain needs to have a debate with his own team because they are not saying what McCain is saying. They are clearly swiftboating because all of these charges were brought up and discussed ad nauseum during the primaries. And the kind of negative attacks the McCain camp is using now is something John McCain himself called despicable back in 2000 after he lost the nomination under similar smears. So again McCain's people are not listening to their leader. If not that, then McCain will do anything and say anything to get elected. Either way, I have no respect for McCain.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. REAL Christian for OBAMA

    Of Obama and McSame....it is obvious which one America believes!

    Obama for President
    Palin for Dog Catcher
    McSame for Posterboy: Retired Mavericks of America

    No Way
    No HOW

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Rodger

    Did McCain know what Charles Keating did for a living? Ayers was a Chicago schools reformer when Obama first met him. Both Democrats and Republicans worked with Ayers for the improvement of schools in Chicago. On the other hand, the financial crisis we are now in, is a continuation of the bank failures due to the lack of regulations encouraged by McCain. Wasn't he one of the Keating 5 who sought government favors?

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. Lisa P

    I'd rather hear about what McCain has to say now about what he did for his buddy Charles Keating than the McCain campaign's baseless and biased speculation about Obama's one-time acquaintance Ayers. Why is it that the McCain campaign always has so little to say about McCain? It's like they have something to hide.

    October 6, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. RJII

    if we let fear mongering, once again take over all reason, we're done for.

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Kim

    I serve on multiple non-profit boards...and I know very little, if anything, about the backgrounds of the people I sit next to on these boards.

    To claim that Obama should have known - just shows the McCain campaign's ignorance on how non-profit boards are formed.

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  12. RM

    McCain is a joke. Look at the markets!

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. sandy

    I just have to say how disappointed I am in this pathetic campaign. You guys should seriously consider changing your slogan to the Low Road Express.

    You're bringing up stuff that everyone had already learned and thought about during the primaries. Old news, old man! It didn't work for the Clintons and it certainly will not work for you guys! Where's the substance? Where are the issues? Why are you guys trying to create a distraction? Everyone knows what you guys are doing, everyone knows that you guys don't have a chance to win this thing by sticking to the issues. Nobody with an IQ higher than 70 cares about what some former radical did 40 years ago. But then again, nobody with an IQ higher than 70 would still seriously even be considering voting for you clowns.

    John McCain should have just given up last time around. Everyone would still believe that he was an honorable guy, but come November 5th, he'll just be known as a grumpy, bumbling old man that was just too out of touch and too cynical!

    Hopefully the country will never have to hear from John McCain or Caribou Barbie again.

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  14. Gwendolyn H. Barry

    Getting nasty isn't it? The McCain campaign staff's cocktail hour is called SCHADENFREUDE! Rove's apprentices are bearing down, fer sure. Yet; the Obama campaign isn't having any, they are not about to roll over and play 'tame'... McCAIN DIDN'T LEARN FROM THE KEATING 5 MISTAKE, DID HE? Now, that's an HONEST retort!

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. Hernan in Virginia

    I sincerely hope that many of the currently undecided voters in America see this as one more attempt in a long line by the McCain campaign to steer our attention away from the real issues at hand: our crumbling economy, record levels of un-employment, the never ending war in Iraq with it's increasing losses to our brave soldiers. Come on America, in the next 29 days or so we need to stay focused on what really matters to us all!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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