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. Mrs. Texas Teacher

    Of course, they did. When you are lying or distorting the facts anyway, what difference does it make!

    October 6, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |

    How is John McCain's relationship with Charles Keating related to today's economic crisis???

    When the savings and loan industry collapsed, Keating's failed company put taxpayers on the hook for $3.4 billion and more than 20,000 Americans lost their savings. John McCain was reprimanded by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, but the ultimate cost of the crisis to American taxpayers reached more than $120 billion.

    The Keating scandal is eerily similar to today's credit crisis, where a lack of regulation and cozy relationships between the financial industry and Congress has allowed banks to make risky loans and profit by bending the rules. And in both cases, John McCain's judgment and values have placed him on the wrong side of history.

    October 6, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. mk

    I have a question.
    If William Ayers is so awful how come he is not
    A. In jail
    B. Able to hold a job at a school?

    And what if ANYTHING does this have to do with the economy in 2008?

    October 6, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. JD in NC

    Who else does the McCain campaign consider anti-American for knowing Ayers?

    If you follow their logic, anyone else who served on that board, anyone who has worked with Ayers at the university, etc., are all terrorist-sympathizers.

    Sounds like McCarthyism to me.

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Connie

    I am guessing that the McSenile camp believes that all the students that Ayers has taught at the university has ties to terrorist also.OBAMA/BIDEN
    Connie from "BLUE" Indiana

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Republican Mom for Obama!!!

    McCain's camp has taken a whole new low road. Filthy pigs! I hope karma comes back to them!!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Chris

    Do you know the past of every single person at work, in PTA, in any organization you're in or of every other professor you teach with at a University? Should you be held accountable for their past?

    It's been proven that they're little more than acquaintances

    If someone has a different opinion than you (even if you highly object), does that mean everything they do is wrong or that you shouldn't speak to them? That would be un-Christian if you ask me.

    Pathetic and Desperate by McCain...

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  8. ATLian

    WHO CARES???!!!!! iT WAS FORTY YEARS AGO. What about the last EIGHT YEARS JOHN!!!?

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  9. Doug

    This is pathetic. Obviously, the McCain campaign has nothing to say on the issues and can only attack Obama. These smears won't help Johnnie, the American people are looking for someone who can tackle our country's problems, and that is obviously not the GOP.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  10. McBlackberrys will help the economy

    He has nothing left. He is a tired old man. He cannot face the economic wreck and devestation that he and his party has created.

    October 6, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Tim

    McCain is either a liar or he has lost it. I don't believe McCain is the one in control of his campaign. The two sides of McCain are contrasted on the subject of negative campaigning.

    MCCAIN 2000: "Uh, I, I just have to rely on the good judgment of the voters not to buy into these negative attack ads. Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you don't have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it." [The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 2/21/2000]

    McCain 2008 … So according to McCain’s own words, he doesn’t have much of a vision for the future or he isn’t ready to articulate it, so he is going negative.

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. the other jd

    whereas we know who McBush is and what he stands for...
    McBush–just plain wrong

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Kenzie from TX

    I dont about you John – but I dont know what most of my acquaintances/coworkers/peers were doing when I was EIGHT!!!!

    October 6, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. Abby

    The daw tanked more then 700 points today. Have some respect for my life savings and get back to the economy.

    October 6, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. Really

    I really could care less who is Ayers guy was back then everyone was against the Vietnam War during that time. But its important to note that he is a Professor now and if he was as bad (now) as they try to portray him then he wouldn't be there.
    I mean really think about what you are being presented and then do some research for your own good.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Tiffany

    The McCain camp, dismissing the truth??? Tell me it isn't so....

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Connie

    I forgot , voted today for the next president of the USA, Barrack Obama.
    Connie from "BLUE" Indiana

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |

    I want to know how much did McCain know about Sarah Palin's relationship with witch doctors and anti-Semitic preachers who think Israel is getting what it deserves because of their rejection of Jesus as their savior. How about Sarah Palin's husband's membership in a party who wished to have Alaska secede from the Union. That's what I'm interested in. Not their old debunked news about Obama.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. Angelo

    The past? Here we are going into the past again........I remember Palin constantly saying that we shouldn't look to the past in the debate whenever Biden brought up Bush/McCain. What happened?

    I guess its ok to go into the past only if it favors your team.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. Steve

    Yes, I believe that Barack Obama had no idea about William Ayer's past – I certainly never heard of him. And, no evidence has been presented which can allow McCain's campaign to make the claim that he was 'his friend'.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. Matt

    It's sad to see an honorable candidate cave under desperation.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Seth in Jacksonville, FL

    I didn't know who that guy was, either. Let's focus on the ISSUES, please.

    October 6, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Wrinkly and Winky

    Ignore the truth and LIE, LIE, LIE.

    Yeah, that's the way to win over voters in a time of crisis.

    October 6, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Donna

    BRING IT!!!!

    Your negative ads didn't help you in the past and they won't help you now either...

    October 6, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. Sandi

    People: he met Ayers working on a non-profit committee to help schools...what ever Ayers past was, he seems to have redirected himself to the good of the community. I can believe Obama didn't know of Ayers past when they first met since Obama was a kid during the time.....CAN WE PLEASE FOCUS ON THE ISSUES, LIKE THE MELT DOWN OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMY....

    October 6, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5