When she was an associate dean at the University of Chicago, Michelle Obama organized a panel discussion featuring her husband, then a state senator, as well as Bill Ayers, the infamous former leader of the Weather Underground anti-American domestic terrorist group.
The detail was documented by this reporter in 2008 and may be among the material that becomes newly relevant amid speculation the former first lady could be picked as Joe Biden’s running mate.
Such a move could set off renewed scrutiny of Michelle Obama’s past radical associations. Her husband’s past radical ties became hot button issues during the 2008 presidential election while Michelle’s similar connections remain largely unexplored.
One such association runs through Ayers, who maintained a longtime close relationship with Barack Obama until the politician publicly denounced Ayers when the problematic association became a theme during the 2008 race.
While Ayers’s ties to Obama fueled election fodder, the connections between his wife and the domestic terrorist have largely not been vetted.
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama at first tried to dismiss Ayers as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” clearly misleading about the duo’s deep relationship. The links were put into overdrive once Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”
Obama denounced Ayers as the candidate’s more extensive dealings with the former Weather Underground leader began to emerge.
“Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts,” Obama stated. “Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House.”
To this day, however, Obama, never addressed the full extent of his relationship with Ayers.
The timeline provides the backstory into Michelle’s involvement in hosting Ayers and her husband at a November 20, 1997 event about child murderers while she was associate dean of Student Services and Director of the University of Chicago Community Service Center.
Michelle Obama’s office organized the 5-person panel discussion titled, “Should a child ever be called a super predator?”
“This panel gives community members and students a chance to hear about the juvenile justice system not only on a theoretical level, but from the people who have experienced it,” Michelle was quoted as saying in campus literature promoting the event.
The panel was about whether child murderers should be tried as adults.
At the time, Barack Obama was “working to block proposed legislation that would throw more juvenile offenders into the adult system,” the invite boasted.
By the time of the 1997 event, the former president already had a deep relationship with Ayers that went back to at least one decade earlier.
Obama reportedly held the first organizing meeting and kickoff for his state senatorial campaign in Ayers’s apartment in 1995. Ayers lived there with his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, another former leader in the Weather Underground.
Records show that Obama worked closely with Ayers while Obama served as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, or CAC, which Ayers played an instrumental role in founding. Obama later touted his job at the CAC as part of his qualification for public office when he ran unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2000.
Obama was on the CAC board from the date Ayers helped found the education reform group in 1995 through the CAC’s dissolution in 2001, and Obama was board chairman for the first four years. In addition to helping organize the CAC, Ayers served as co-chairman of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, one of the two operational arms of the CAC, from in 1995 until 2000.
Also, as this reporter first documented in a widely cited 2008 article that became a theme of that year’s presidential campaign, Obama was a paid member of the board of the left-wing Wood’s Fund, where he served alongside Ayers from 1999 to Dec. 11, 2002.
This reporter’s defining New York Times bestselling book, “The Manchurian President,” first uncovered Obama’s earliest known connections to Ayers, which went back to at least 1988 when Obama landed his first organizing job in Chicago.
Documentation revealed in the book, co-authored with researcher Brenda J. Elliott, showed that Obama was included in a community advocacy coalition called the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, or ABC Coalition, which was formed by Bill Ayers’s father, Thomas Ayers.
The contact for the ABCs Coalition, with Obama serving on the group, was none other than Bill Ayers, who at the time was at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Documentation showed Bill Ayers attending ABC Coalition meetings.
Obama in 1988 was director and lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project, or DCP, and it was under that banner that he was included in the Ayers’s ABC Coalition.
In his carefully crafted autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama claimed the name of his boss at DCP was “Marty Kaufman.” There was no “Marty Kaufman” at the DCP.
The name change seems an attempt to hide that the DCP chief at the time was an activist named Marty Kellman, who was trained by radical community organizer Saul Alinsky himself, “The Manchurian President” book documented.
While Obama’s ties to Ayers have been widely reported, it is not as well known that Michelle Obama hosted Ayers and her husband at the November 20, 1997 University of Chicago Community Service Center event on juvenile murderers.
That year, Ayers had authored a book titled, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court.”
“We should call a child a child. A 13-year-old who picks up a gun isn’t suddenly an adult. We have to ask other questions: How did he get the gun? Where did it come from?” Ayers asked.
Comments about murder are instructive coming from Ayers given that his Weather Underground took credit for 25 bombings, including bombing the Capitol building in 1971 and attempting to bomb a military induction center in Oakland, California. Ayers’s group also set off bombs in the women’s restroom in the Pentagon, the California Attorney General’s office and a New York City police station.
Ayers helped form the Weather Underground together with his wife, Dohrn. The Weather Underground splintered from the anti-war Students for a Democratic Society, complaining the SDS was not violent or radical enough.
Ayers turned himself in to the police in 1980 but the charges needed to be dropped due to the use of illegal federal wiretaps.
While he stopped violence, Ayers’s revolution to fundamentally transform America continued full speed ahead through his next incarnation as an education reform activist. In addition to founding various education groups, Ayers became a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ayers was not apologetic when he told the New York Times in an interview released Sept. 11, 2001, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
The piece featured an image of Ayers stepping on an American flag.