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. Unshrub

    Who should someone believe? Someone from the McCain team who HAS LIED about Obama and Ayer. It's a fact that what the McCain team is saying about Obama is false. Or should one beleive Obama who has told the truth about Ayer.

    People, McCain is lying because he doesn't know what else to do to try and save his campaign.

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. tedious898

    McCain = Bumbling Idiot

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. Cammi317

    I didn't know anything about the man before this campaign, and I bet the name meant nothing to most Americans in general. So why is it so hard to fathom that he knew nothing of the man's past when they initially met?

    October 6, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Matt

    What Ayers did, he did when Barack was 8 years old! They met because they were within the same academic circles. Ayers did his time. Not to mention he was acting out against a wildly unpopular and unwinnable war. Bush hangs out with McCain, do we call him a terrorist because of this? The facts have been wildly distorted by the Palin -McCain campaign. There is one thing that you can't distort about Palin though. 'You can't fix stupid.' – Ron White

    October 6, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Paula

    We are not going to pretend our money is safe John McCain....a repeat of a similar time of the Keating 5.!!!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. richard

    Does anyone want to know why Mccain will lose?

    Simple, really.

    Because the DOW is down 750 points and Mccain is talking about 1960's radicals.

    October 6, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. Pat

    Here the Dow Jones hit below 10,000 and 60% of the people believe we are or are heading into a depression but John McCain, the Marvick and Sarah Palin, the pitbull with lipstick are bringing up issues that are not going to help the economy, war....

    John and Sarah are speaking out in desperation which tells me what they won't do when the going gets tough! Darn it!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. Italy

    Obama you lied to American people and to America , my vote go to McCaine.

    October 6, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Aygola

    One would think they learned from watching the debates on CNN and see that meter go down as the candidates got too negative. Well 30 days to go and I guess hanging on after a punch in the stomach isn't doing it anymore, McCain has to start dancing and running around in the hopes that Obama will get dizzy and fall.

    October 6, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. martha

    The slime that "honorable" Sen. McCain and his lamentable running mate are hurling serve as more evidence that they have no clear vision, no plan on where they want to take this country. Despicable and nasty, they turn personal when they have nothing productive to say. The idea that these 2 could be elected is truly alarming.

    October 6, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. Mike D. in San Diego

    There you go McCain/Palin...play the "scary black man card" that Bush Sr. played in 1988. Problem is that people today aren't as rascist as your generation and you're just going to make them mad. I can't BELIVEVE these people have the nerve to call themselves Christians.

    October 6, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. mary mt

    McSame very very desperate, and becoming very very ugly

    October 6, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Jaqi

    I am getting so sick of this... Even if Barack Obama did know about Ayers's past, that is no reason not to trust him now. He's a professor at UIC for goodness sake. I'm sure if this man was still a threat, he would not be teaching at a well-known public institution. The work they did together for their community was not harmful; rather, it was incredibly helpful. Obama was EIGHT YEARS OLD when Ayers (who never had to spend time in prison) was a radical... but yeah, McCain and Palin, I'm sure Obama was "palling around" with him.

    October 6, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. Texas

    Hellooo..knock, knock..

    Earth to McCain/Palin orbiting Jupiter….


    What do YOU plan to do about it?? Do YOU have any plans?

    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. Tony



    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. Joe Regis

    It is reported in Newsweek that McCain has unsavoury connection with anti-Semitic, racist and neo-conservative groups.

    But this is not about personal attacks, this about what the candidate will do to reverse the hardship that Americans are facing and the financial crisis that crippling the economy.

    Obama/Biden 08/12.

    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Obama Supporter

    I don't care what is said about Barack Obama. At this late stage of the game, I know what kind of game the republicans are playing. All the negativity and swiftboating from the McCain/Palin camp is not going to sway people who can read, reason and think. I can't wait until this whole thing is over. All this mess does is confirm that McCain and Palin are wrong for this country. They are trying to peg Obama as risky and dangerous, but what they are doing confirms TO ME that Barack Obama is not the one we need to be afraid of.

    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Michael B

    What worries me isn't what Obama saw in Ayers. What worries me is what Ayers saw in Obama.

    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Steve

    McCain appears to be a complete COWARD, thoroughly unable OR unwilling to reign in his handlers, decline to drag American Politics down to the level of a Banana Republic.

    Appears he rather be a dictator, "WIN" at all or any cost, take down Democracy itself, just so he can be a King-pinhead.

    The Republican party should be deathly ashamed of their unmitigated hatred of America and all who refuse to trust or believe them anymore.

    October 6, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. Trysh, Los Angeles

    Because it's only logical that Obama WOULD know about all the bombings that happened when he was 8 years old.

    This man is sounding more and more like a fool each day.

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. mk

    Does John McCain truly expect the American people to believe he learned his lesson from the Keating 5 situation?
    Pot calling kettle....MR Black oh Mr Black, you are running scared.

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  22. Tired of W, OH

    Factcheck already declared this as FALSE, but I'm sure that it won't stop McCain from pushing it. Truth doesn't matter much to the republicans. Disgusting.

    CNN, Stop spreading the lies!

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  23. OHIO


    OHIO FOR OBAMA'S SOCIALIAST PARTY.. Rule us.. just give us something for FREE !!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  24. monique

    CNN this election is getting very ugly anytime you have a supporter at the palin rally today yelling "kill em" …….this is taking a turn for the worst…. and if anything happens to obama… enlight of palin invoking a false claim that obama "pals with terriost" blood will be on john mccains hands!!!

    October 6, 2008 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Ken Pittsburgh

    Why is this important now? When your ship is sinking you grab on to whatever you can.

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