In a TV ad, McCain says Obama "lied" about his association with William Ayers, a former bomb-setting, anti-war radical from the 1960s and '70s. We find McCain's claim to be groundless. New details have recently come to light, but nothing Obama said previously has been shown to be false.
In a Web ad and in repeated attacks from the stump, McCain describes the two as associates, and Palin claims they "pal around" together. But so far as is known, their relationship was never very close. An Obama spokesman says they last saw each other in a chance encounter on the street more than a year ago.
McCain says in an Internet ad that the two "ran a radical 'education' foundation" in Chicago. But the supposedly "radical" group was supported by a Republican governor and included on its board prominent local civic leaders, including one former Nixon administration official who has given $1,500 to McCain's campaign this year. Education Week says the group's work "reflected mainstream thinking" among school reformers. The group was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, started by a $49 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, which was established by the publisher Walter Annenberg, a prominent Republican whose widow, Leonore, is a contributor to the McCain campaign.
(FactCheck.org, which is nonpartisan, also receives funding from the Annenberg Foundation. But we are in no way connected to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which finished its work long before we came into being in late 2003.)
For full details, please read on to our Analysis section.
Sen. John McCain has dialed up his attacks on Sen. Barack Obama's past association with former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers. He released a 30-second TV spot Oct. 10 claiming Obama "lied" about Ayers. A day earlier he announced a 90-second Internet ad claiming that Obama and Ayers "ran a radical education foundation together" and suggesting Obama was being untruthful.
Groundless, False, Dubious
We find McCain's accusation that Obama "lied" to be groundless. It is true that recently released records show half a dozen or so more meetings between the two men than were previously known, but Obama never denied working with Ayers.
Other claims are seriously misleading. The education project described in the Web ad, far from being "radical," had the support of the Republican governor and was run by a board that included prominent local leaders, including one Republican who has donated $1,500 to McCain's campaign this year. The project is described by Education Week as reflecting "mainstream thinking" about school reform.
Despite the newly released records, there's still no evidence of a deep or strong "friendship" with Ayers, a former radical anti-war protester whose actions in the 1960s and '70s Obama has called "detestable" and "despicable."
Even the description of Ayers as a "terrorist" is a matter of interpretation. Setting off bombs can fairly be described as terrorism even when they are intended to cause only property damage, which is what Ayers has admitted doing in his youth. But for nearly three decades since, Ayers has lived the relatively quiet life of an educator. It would be correct to call him a "former terrorist," and an "unapologetic" one at that. But if McCain means the word "terrorist" to invoke images of 9/11, he's being misleading; Ayers is no Osama bin Laden now, and never was.
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