Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center


Late last week Huffington Post broke the news that a massive robo-call campaign linking Obama and former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers was targeting voters in numerous states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine. Paid for by the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee, the call tells listeners that “Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans.”

Is the caller really meaning to imply that Obama “worked closely” with Ayers to bomb American landmarks and kill people? First, nobody was killed in the three incidents mentioned in the call; the group warned of the bombings in advance so the areas could be evacuated. Three Weather Underground members were blown up in a Greenwich Village townhouse in 1970 while assembling a bomb; Ayers wasn’t there, though his girlfriend was killed in the blast. In 1981, a security guard and two police officers were killed when some Weather Underground members as well as members of another group tried to pull off a heist of a Brinks’ truck. But by then, Ayers had emerged from hiding and wasn’t accused of involvement in the bungled robbery.

Fourteen years after the Brinks robbery, Obama and Ayers met. But to say that they “worked closely” is an exaggeration. As we noted in our article, “‘He Lied’ About Bill Ayers?,” the two worked together in a couple of instances but were never particularly close. Obama was on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an effort to improve Chicago’s public schools that Ayers helped to start, and the two were both on the board of the Woods Fund, another group that gave away money, for two years. There were other connections, but never a strong relationship. Obama has called Ayers’ earlier actions “detestable.” But before Obama met him, Ayers had become a respectable professor of education at the University of Illinois.

Having said “I don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist” during the final presidential debate, McCain said over the weekend that the robo-calls are “legitimate and truthful” and raise the question of whether Obama is “being truthful with the American people.” We’re not so sure of that: The calls don’t accuse Obama of lying or hiding anything. The insinuation is simply that, as Sarah Palin put it, Obama is “palling around with terrorists.”