JERUSALEM – A prominent article by the New York Times this weekend purporting to investigate the connections between Sen. Barack Obama and former Weathermen radical Bill Ayers omits key associations between the two and in some cases seems to minimize their relationship.
One law professor and blogger who was interviewed for the Times piece says he provided the newspaper with key documentation showing Ayers was directly involved in the formation of the board of an education organization on which Obama served as chairman.
But the Times did not present that information and instead made the claim Ayers was not involved in the selection of Obama as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, or CAC, which was founded by Ayers.
The Times article was first released online under the title “Obama had met Ayers, but the two are not close.” That title was soon changed to, “Obama and the ’60′s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths.”
The piece purports to present the scope of Obama’s relationship with Ayers, an increasingly public point of contention during this campaign season, with Gov. Sarah Palin just yesterday highlighting the controversial relationship.
News reports, archived records, interviews and Ayers’ own curriculum vitae document that Ayers was the founder of CAC, which bills itself as a school reform organization. Documentation shows Ayers led the application process to apply for the original grant that funded the CAC.
Ayers served as co-chairman of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, one of the two operational arms of the CAC, from its formation in 1995 until 2000. In 1995, Obama was appointed as the CAC’s first chairman.
The Times, though, does not mention Ayers’ role in founding the CAC, documented in several articles in 1994 and 1995 in the Chicago Tribune, which detail Ayers’ extensive work to secure the original grant from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg, as well as Ayers’ molding of the CAC guidelines.
Many argue it would have been unusual for Ayers not to have been involved in the selection of the chairman of the group he himself founded.
The Times claims that “according to several people involved, Mr. Ayers played no role in Mr. Obama’s appointment (to chair the CAC).”
The newspaper says Obama was suggested as a nominee to lead the CAC board by Deborah Leff, then president of the Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based group whose board Obama, a young lawyer, had joined the previous year.
Reported the Times: “At a lunch with two other foundation heads, Patricia A. Graham of the Spencer Foundation and Adele Simmons of the MacArthur Foundation, Ms. Leff suggested that Mr. Obama would make a good board chairman, she said in an interview. Mr. Ayers was not present and had not suggested Mr. Obama, she said.”
The Times did not quote either Leff or Graham as directly stating Ayers was not involved in the selection of Obama, just that Leff originally suggested Obama. The article then continued to other matters.
Steve Diamond, a political science and law professor and a blogger who has posted on Obama, said he was interviewed for the Times piece. He said he provided Times writer Scott Shane with documentation that proves Ayers was directly involved in forming the board and leadership of the CAC.
Among the documents is a letter from November 18, 1994 in which Vartan Gregorian, president of Brown University and a member of Annenberg’s selection committee, asked Ayers to “compose the governing board and the Collaborative, to engage people who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago.”
On December 1, 1994, Ayers and Anne Hallett, who co-chaired a CAC branch with Ayers, wrote back to Gregorian:
“Thank you for your letter of November 18, 1994. We are continuing to build a broad base of consensus and support for the main thrust of the proposal. … We have given careful thought to the issues raised in your letter. We are working with Adele Simmons, Deborah Leff, and Pat Graham on issues of management and governance to ensure that Chicago’s Annenberg Challenge initiative is successful.
“We offer the following responses: … Board of Directors. A five-to-seven person Board of Directors of highly respected Chicagoans is being assembled. Pat Graham, president of the Spencer Foundation, has agreed to serve and is willing to work with the Board. The duties of the Board will be to approve grants, to help raising matching funds, and to hire the executive director. … The Board and the Collaborative will reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago.”
Diamond concluded that Ayers, who conceived and led the organization, submission and implementation of the CAC grant application, was viewed as responsible for composing the board on which Obama served.
But that information was not included in the Times piece, which bases its claim that Ayers was not involved in the appointment of Obama largely on Leff’s statement that she first suggested Obama.
But documents from 1994 that Diamond said he provided to the Times indicate Leff viewed Ayers as in charge of the CAC:
Wrote Leff: “The Joyce Foundation strongly supports the proposal for the Annenberg Challenge Grant submitted from Chicago. At its meeting just two weeks ago, our Board of Directors approved a grant of $80,000 to Professor William Ayers at the University of Illinois at Chicago to establish the Chicago School Reform Collaborative – the working group that Ayers organized to develop and submit the CAC grant proposal and that would become an arm of the CAC once established in 1995.”
Also missing from the Times is information, first exposed by WND, that Obama and Ayers used the CAC grant money to fund organizations run by radicals tied to Ayers, including Mike Klonsky, a former top communist activist who was a senior leader in the Students for a Democratic Society group, a major leftist student organization in the 1960s from which the Weathermen terror group later splintered.
National Review Online writer Stanley Kurtz pointed out the Times article also ignored individuals connected to Ayers and the CAC he said helped block his original attempts to obtain the CAC archives housed at the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was Kurtz who found that along with Leff and Graham, Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board of the CAC, which hired Obama.
The documents obtained by Kurtz showed Ayers served as an ex-officio member of the board that Obama chaired through the CAC’s first year. Ayers also served on the board’s governance committee with Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws, according to the documents.
Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Obama. Ayers also spoke for the Chicago School Reform Collaborative before Obama’s board, while Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the collaborative, the CAC documents reviewed by Kurtz show.
The Times piece goes on to document what it titles “other connections” between Obama and Ayers.
It reported that in 1997, after Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which the Times noted Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.”
The Times, though, did not report Ayers’ book could easily be characterized as anti-American, comparing the U.S. to South African apartheid and dismissing the notion the U.S. is a just nation while questioning whether America should maintain a prison system.
The Times also reports that in 2001, Ayers donated $200 to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.
It then recognized – as WND first exclusively reported – that Obama served on the board of the Wood’s Fund, a liberal Chicago nonprofit, alongside Ayers.
But the newspaper got the dates wrong and here again seemed to minimize the pair’s relationship, saying Obama and Ayers “overlapped on the seven-member board.” It claimed the two served together on the Wood’s Fund from 2000 to 2002, while the Fund’s own website documents indicated Obama and Ayers served together beginning in 1999.
The Times ignored altogether that Obama and Ayers appeared together as speakers at several public events, including a 1997 University of Chicago panel entitled, “Should a child ever be called a ‘super predator?’” and another panel for the University of Illinois in April 2002 entitled, “Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?”
The Times article seemed to go to great lengths to argue Ayers, once a domestic terrorist, is currently rehabilitated.
“In Chicago, Mr. Ayers has largely been rehabilitated,” the Times article stated.
“Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family,” stated the article.
Toward the end of the piece, the article acknowledges it was the New York Times which on 9/11 profiled Ayers and quoted from his just-published memoir, “Fugitive Days,” in which he write: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Ayers posed for a photograph accompanying the 9/11 piece that shows him stepping on an American flag.
In response to controversy following the Times piece and the 9/11 attacks, the Times this weekend noted Ayers wrote on his blog in 2001 that his memoir “is from start to finish a condemnation of terrorism.”
But unreported is that just last month, Ayers wrote on his blog he still feels not enough was done to oppose the Vietnam War, although he clarified, “I don’t think violent resistance is necessarily the answer, but I do think opposition and refusal is imperative.”
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