Hannity failed to challenge suggestion that Obama has not "condemn[ed] the actions" of Ayers

››› ››› ANNE SMITH

On Hannity's America, discussing what host Sean Hannity said was Sen. Barack Obama's "friendly relationship" with Weather Underground member William Ayers, retired New York City Police detective Paul Ragonese, who survived a 1970 bombing attack by the Weather Underground, stated, "I can't understand why somebody who wants to be president of the United States, I'll be perfectly honest with you, would want to associate or not condemn the actions of people in the past." Hannity did not note that, in fact, Obama has condemned Ayers' "detestable acts."

On the April 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity interviewed retired New York City Police detective Paul Ragonese, who survived a bombing attack in 1970 by the radical group Weather Underground. Hannity stated that "this has now become front and center in this election campaign" and said to Ragonese that Sen. Barack Obama "has a friendly relationship" with former Weather Underground member William Ayers, later adding, "Don't you think this should be a major issue in the campaign?" Ragonese replied, "I can't understand why somebody who wants to be president of the United States, I'll be perfectly honest with you, would want to associate or not condemn the actions of people in the past." Hannity did not note in response that Obama has in fact condemned Ayers' actions as "detestable," but, rather, responded, "Are you as surprised as I am that people are actually surprised that people like me are even raising this question? This is a terrorist."

Obama stated during the April 16 Democratic presidential debate, "[T]he notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense." The Associated Press reported on April 20 that "Obama said last week his relationship with Ayers went no further than sitting on a Chicago charity board together, as the Illinois senator rebuffed attacks on his patriotism and condemned Weather Underground as 'detestable.' " Further, on the April 27 edition of Fox News Sunday, Obama said, "Mr. Ayers is a 60-plus-year-old individual who lives in my neighborhood, who did something that I deplore 40 years ago when I was six or seven years old. By the time I met him, he was a professor of education at the University of Illinois." Obama added: "We served on a board together that had Republicans, bankers, lawyers, focused on education. He worked for Mayor Daley. Mayor Daley, the same Mayor Daley, by the way, who, when he was a state's attorney, prosecuted Mr. Ayers' wife for those activities."

From the April 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:

HANNITY: And welcome back to Hannity's America. In the late '60s and early '70s, William Ayers and the Weather Underground were responsible for several attacks of terrorism against the United States. On June 9th, 1970, the New York City Police headquarters was the target of one of those brutal attacks. Tonight, in a Hannity's America exclusive, we are joined by a former police officer who was injured in that attack.

And joining us now, retired New York City Police detective Paul Ragonese, with us. Paul, good to see you, my friend.

RAGONESE: Good to be here, Sean.

HANNITY: Thank you for being with us. Now, you served 18 years on the job as a police officer.

RAGONESE: Yes.

HANNITY: I want you to take us back to June 9th, 1970, New York City Police headquarters.

RAGONESE: Yeah, it was 38 years ago. I was a 20-year-old police trainee. I was working in the Communications Division in which I was answering 911 phone calls. That's what was my job.

HANNITY: Right.

RAGONESE: So at about 7 o'clock that evening, it was my lunch break. So I went outside and went down a couple of floors or a floor to use the payphone to call my fiancée, who is now my wife of 36 years. I don't remember anything else.

She actually heard the boom. I never heard it. I remember waking up about 30 feet away on a staircase, and just dust and debris and silence. I didn't hear anything. And then -- I swear I thought I was dead. I saw in this mist and this dust this huge figure coming towards me with silver hair. And he reached in and it turned out to be a sergeant, Sergeant McDonald. And he reached in and he grabbed me by the shirt, pulled me out of -- off the stairs. I was still holding the receiver with the wire. And he said to me


he said, "Are you OK?" And I nod. And he said, "Well, you can put the phone down now."

HANNITY: This is New York City Police headquarters. This is the heart and soul of America's bravest. At least seven people were injured when this bomb went off here. Now, The New York Times and the AP said on June 10th, the next day, that they had received letters from the Weathermen, this Democ -- this group with William Ayers being a part of --

RAGONESE: Yes.

HANNITY: -- you know, taking credit for this.

RAGONESE: I think he actually -- well, somebody did -- place the threatening call prior to the detonation. I think about 15, 20 minutes because they had a system down there where they put these -- lights started to blinking when they had something serious. So I believe they had a threatening phone call prior to the detonation.

HANNITY: Right. Well, this has now become front and center in this election campaign as we saw in the last debate. And that is that Barack Obama, Senator Obama, has a friendly relationship with William Ayers. Now, we know a few things -- that as a rite of passage, when he was getting into politics, he went to Ayers' house and he met with Ayers. We know that he's given speeches with Ayers.

We know that Ayers, of all days, on September 11th, 2001, The New York Times quoted him as saying, "I don't regret setting bombs. I wish we did more." What does this mean to you? And then they're friendly and they gave speeches -- even after he said that he was unrepentant.

RAGONESE: I want to remove from the political arena, but just New York City cops, OK, can -- and I know some that have -- if you associate with a known criminal or other people that associated with known criminals, you can be dismissed. And I know people that have been dismissed because they grew up with some guys when they were younger. And they went on the other side of the fence, these guys. And the cops still hung around with them and they were dismissed.

And so I believe that if that's a standard for New York City cops, that we can't associate with known criminals, that should be the minimal standard, I believe, for the president of the United States.

HANNITY: Very well said. But when Barack Obama is saying, when asked about the relationship - they've sat on a board together, they've given speeches together. In 2001, he said, "I don't regret setting these bombs." Ayers said, "I wish we did more." And Barack Obama says he is friendly with him today. What does that mean to you?

RAGONESE: Well, anybody and not just Mr. Obama, but anybody who says that, you know, to them and to the general public and onto the press, these bombings are incidents, historical events, news stories.

I have seen, like other cops, the devastation. In 1982, we had three New York City cops get blown up by the FALN at 1 Police Plaza. Two of them are really dear friends of mine in the bomb squad.

HANNITY: Wow.

RAGONESE: These people have to live with the mutilation, the serious injuries, the death that happens.

HANNITY: Right.

RAGONESE: It's not a news story. It's not a political tool to be used. Anybody -- once again, I will speak in generalities. I don't understand. I personally cannot understand --

HANNITY: I don't understand it either.

RAGONESE: -- how anybody could say or associate with anybody that you know or suspect could damage people - honest, hard-working people.

HANNITY: But wait. He admits to it. He admits to bombing New York City Police headquarters. He admits to bombing the Pentagon. He admits to bombing the Capitol Building. He says he didn't do enough. He says he is unrepentant and Barack -- wait a minute. And Barack Obama is friendly. Don't you think this should be a major issue in the campaign? I mean, you lived through this bombing.

RAGONESE: Well, like I say -- I mean, my standard with cops is they are held to a higher standard. I can't understand why somebody who wants to be president of the United States, I'll be perfectly honest with you, would want to associate or not condemn the actions of people in the past.

HANNITY: Are you as surprised as I am that people are actually surprised that people like me are even raising this question? This is a terrorist.

RAGONESE: Well, in those days they called them radicals, disgruntled youth, OK?

HANNITY: Is terrorist more accurate?

RAGONESE: Well, yeah. Absolutely. The acts they committed, the Weather Underground, were acts of terror.

HANNITY: Well, listen. Paul, thank you for putting a face on terror and really bringing this home. I appreciate you coming forward. Thank you.

RAGONESE: My pleasure.

HANNITY: You are a great American. You are a great hero. Thank you for being with us.

RAGONESE: You're a great American. Thank you.

HANNITY: Thank you, buddy.

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Sean Hannity
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Hannity's America
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