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. kescia

    If the man is a terrorist, why is he walking free and serving on boards of reputable companies?

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Elizabeth - Texas

    Ask McCain about the Keating 5, about his 1st wife, about Cindy making money on the Keating 5. Ask Palin about Trooper Gate and Ethics Violations.

    But first ask them how what they are going to do to help the ecnomy. They don't have a clue.

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Lorna, NY

    The McCain campaign has stooped to new lows. HE SHOULD BE DETAILING A PLAN TO GET US OUT OF THIS MESS. I have seen Obamas plan, but, I have yet to see McCain's plan on anything. This is a pathetic and desperate move by McCain and I do not approve of this message.

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Pat, IL

    If you've bothered to talk to anyone under 50, you'd find out that they have no idea about the Weathermen, Black Panthers, etc. who were active for a brief time in the late 60's-early 70's. I doubt that Obama did a background check on a college professor who joined him in a brief venture of good community work.....who would?

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. tulsa

    Talk about TOUCHY!

    John McCain is the most arrogant self serving person I've ever seen.

    Notice I didn't say "man".... He isn't a man, he's a wraith seeking after power. From his own pen comes the admission of that. Read his book.

    Keep digging your grave McCain.

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. Billy

    I understand the need to address the lies from the McCain/Palin campaign but I hate that they take precious time away from talking about our economic future and the path the two campaigns would take us in the next 4 years.

    Honestly McCain, if you can't talk about what YOU plan to do, just move aside so the leaders can lead.

    October 6, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  7. Funkemariechen, Berlin

    The dow dropped more than 700 points today – The world is facing the greatest financial depression in recent history – The news media talks about Ayers, Keating & Co.

    McCain wants to turn the page – mission accomplished.

    What a strange reality you people over the big pond live in.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Dallas, TX

    Of course he knew, that's the oldest ploy in the book!

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Turning the page

    John McCain is getting more desperate, more panicky and more erratic by the minute!

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Pam

    This is ridiculous. I'm heading to the Supervisor's of Elections office and am going to vote early... FOR OBAMA!

    McCain... you've lost me!

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Eric

    I'm so sick of this country.

    October 6, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. Jordan - San Marcos, TX

    McPalin needs to check the latest Dow Jones numbers before going ahead with this. He would see a great metaphor for his plummeting election chances.

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Richie

    Arizona seems to be the epicenter of corruption. By 1988 it was reported that John McCain had received more money from Keating than did any of the other Keating Five and also had had the most meetings with him. When asked in 1989 whether his financial support had influenced politicians, Keating famously declared ”I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.” Keating had prominently funded McCain’s election to the US House of Representatives. Then, while a US representative, McCain co-sponsored a resolution to delay S&L regulations which would have curbed risky investments (made with taxpayer-insured deposits).

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. Ilandking

    Let me get this straight, Ayers was a radical in the 60's and 70's and was later acquitted. Now he is trying to reform education and worked with Obama to do so and worked on charitable organizations and this is a bad thing. What ever happened to paying back society. He did apologize in 2001 for his actions and is trying to make ammends now. It might not be enough for what he has done but I thought that that was to whole idea of the Justice system, for that person to pay their debt to society....

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Joe

    Hmmm – but Obama met Ayers at Columbia – right? in the 80s – can Obama really be that clueless?

    October 6, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. Mark Wagner

    I dunno about everyone else, but I also never heard of Ayers until it was brought up in the primaries.

    October 6, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. Republican for Obama

    How desperate!

    If people don't get a sense for who Obama is after being in your face through the media for the last 2 years, they are beyond hope. McCain is turning our system into a circus and I am ashamed of him. These personal attacks are a desperate attempt to distract people from the economy and other issues that McCain has no plan for.

    If people fall for this fear mongering again then I shall truly be ashamed of my country.

    October 6, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Rob

    Desperate and sad. All Angry Johnny and Ignorant Gomer Palin have left is sad negative lies. The Fact Checkers have already proved the Ayers allegations are blatantly False. But the vicious cult member Palin whose church practices withcraft excorcisms, does in Fact have a Husband who was a ten year member of a Radical Anti American Group in Alaska.

    October 6, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. Vincent, Great Lakes, Illinois

    I'm sure he didn't know about Ayers past. Heck, I didn't know about some of my friends "pasts" when I met them. What was done forty years ago is in the past. People change. Forty years ago, McCain dumped his wife to marry Cindy. The Republicans don't hold that against him. Why should anyone hold Ayers against Obama.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  20. JL

    Didn't we already have this discussion in full several months ago? John McCain is desperate and it shows.

    Plus, it is a real stretch coming from one of the Keating 5.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. BJGT

    Keating 5 !

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. Pat

    What absurd nonsence! Is this all McCain has left? Attacks!

    Obama didn't say he didn't know about Ayers past. He said, he hasn't been in contact with AYers since 2005. He acknowledged they were members on a Board in Chicago and Ayers donated to his Campaign. So what? Maybe McCain should put more attention to his affiliations and friends! He is looking like the Last Joke!

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. Gtnaustin

    The farther McCain gets behind in the polls, the more pathetic his attacks get. McCain is only proving that he does not have what it takes to run this nation and especially to escort it out of the financial crisis which HE created.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. scared

    Desperate times call for desperate measures John McCain is DESPERATE. Didn’t all this got ash out in the primaries with Clinton. If you want to change my vote please come with something new because as of now I will vote for BARACK OBAMA Mr. calm cool and collective.

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. Recreator

    These are great comments coming from a person with "the Keating 5" past, marriage infidilities, and constant lies and misinterpetations that come from either his own mouth or that of his campaign croonies. His example is surely not one to follow.

    Vote for a true change!!

    Obama/Biden 08'

    October 6, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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