Politico quoted from McCain campaign's Ayers ad without noting its distortions

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & ANDREW WALZER

The Politico's Andy Barr reported on Sen. John McCain's ad "on [Sen.] Barack Obama's relationship with 1960s radical William Ayers" without noting that it contains several distortions and misleading assertions. Barr failed to mention that, in contrast to the ad's claim, The New York Times reported that "the two men do not appear to have been close," or that prominent McCain supporters are also connected to the purportedly "radical 'education' foundation" the ad references.

In an October 9 article, the Politico's Andy Barr reported on Sen. John McCain's ad "on [Sen.] Barack Obama's relationship with 1960s radical William Ayers" without noting that it contains several distortions and misleading assertions. While the ad claims that Obama and Ayers are "friends" who have "worked together for years" and "ran a radical 'education' foundation, together," Barr did not note that "the two men do not appear to have been close," according to The New York Times, or that prominent McCain supporters are also connected to the purportedly "radical 'education' foundation" the ad references. Furthermore, Barr did not note that the ad distorts Obama's April remark that Ayers is "a guy who lives in my neighborhood."

"Friends" and "palling around"

Barr reported that "Ayers is referred to as a terrorist throughout the ad, which highlights his 'friendship' with Obama" and quoted the ad calling Obama and Ayers "[f]riends" who have "worked together for years." However, Barr did not note that, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, an October 4 New York Times article reported of Obama and Ayers, "the two men do not appear to have been close." Nor did Barr mention that the Times article also noted that Obama has never "expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.' "

Barr also wrote that "McCain surrogates have been linking Obama to Ayers in recent interviews as has Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who accused Obama of 'palling around with terrorists.' " However, Barr did not note that Palin distorted the October 4 Times article in making her remarks. In addition to the Times, CNN.com's Political Ticker blog wrote: "There is no indication that Ayers and Obama are now 'palling around,' or that they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years. Also, there is nothing to suggest that Ayers is now involved in terrorist activity or that other Obama associates are."

"[W]orked together for years"

Barr uncritically reported the ad's claim that Obama and Ayers "worked together for years" -- a reference to their work on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which the ad claims is "a radical 'education' foundation." However, Barr did not note that McCain supporter Arnold R. Weber, like Ayers and Obama, also worked with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Nor did Barr note that Leonore Annenberg -- whose husband, Walter, funded the Annenberg Challenge -- has been touted by the McCain campaign as a prominent supporter.

According to former Annenberg Challenge executive director Ken Rolling, as quoted in an Obama campaign fact check, "Barack Obama was elected as Chair of the Annenberg Challenge by the founding Board of Directors of the Annenberg Challenge -- Susan Crown, Pat Graham, Stanley Ikenberry, Ray Romero, Arnold Weber, and Wanda White." The fact check further notes that Weber was an assistant secretary of labor and associate director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Nixon and served as an adviser to Presidents Carter and Reagan.

According to a Media Matters search of Federal Election Commission data, Weber made donations of $500 and $1,000 in 2008 to McCain's presidential campaign. Media Matters found no indication that the McCain campaign has returned Weber's campaign contributions.

As Time magazine's Michael Scherer noted, the McCain campaign touted the endorsement of "Leonore Annenberg, the wife of Ambassador William [sic] Annenberg, the founder of the Annenberg Institute of Reform, which funded the Annenberg Challenge." From Scherer's October 8 post on Time's Swampland blog:

This morning John McCain put out a list of 100 former ambassadors who are supporting his campaign. Number two is Leonore Annenberg, the wife of Ambassador William [sic] Annenberg, the founder of the Annenberg Institute of Reform, which funded the Annenberg Challenge, which once had two famous board members: former "domestic terrorist" William Ayers and Sen. Barack Obama.

So either we should all be outraged that John McCain is supported by a family who funded a foundation that hired a domestic terrorist, or this whole William Ayers thing is just plain silly. I choose the latter.

"That's it?"

Barr also quoted the ad stating: "When Obama just says, 'This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood.' Americans say, 'Where's the truth, Barack?' ... When their relationship became an issue, Obama just responded, 'This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood.' That's it?" In fact, contrary to the ad's suggestion that Obama said only that Ayers is "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," he went on to say that Ayers' Weather Underground actions were "detestable." From the April 16 Democratic primary debate:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (moderator): A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the 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, George.

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