Commentary Magazine


The Lies of Bill Ayers

Bill Ayers’s election-day interview with the New Yorker‘s David Remnick doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, now that November 4th has passed. But it’s worth addressing, for the sake of historical veracity. As was expected, Ayers is now finally opening up to the media, with Remnick getting the scoop, catching up with the 64-year-old aging hippie outside his polling station in Hyde Park Tuesday. Remnick presents Ayers as a gentle, Mr. Rogers-esque figure, “wav[ing] to neighbors and kids as they went by on the sidewalk” who resembles “a more boomer Fred MacMurray in an episode of ‘My Three Sons.’”

Ayers passes along a massive whopper to Remnick:

Ayers said that he had never meant to imply, in an interview with the Times, published coincidentally on 9/11, that he somehow wished he and the Weathermen had committed further acts of violence in the old days. Instead, he said, “I wish I had done more, but it doesn’t mean I wish we’d bombed more shit.” Ayers said that he had never been responsible for violence against other people and was acting to end a war in Vietnam in which “thousands of people were being killed every week.”

“While we did claim several extreme acts, they were acts of extreme radicalism against property,” he said. “We killed no one and hurt no one. Three of our people killed themselves.”

Here’s what Ayers actually said, in a New York Times article in 2001:

”I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. ”I feel we didn’t do enough.”

Ayers has since said that the Times article was a “deliberate distortion” of what he meant. It’s hard to imagine him raising a fuss about this supposed “distortion,” however, had not the interview been printed on September 11, 2001. Ayers quite plainly said that he did not regret setting bombs, and that he felt “we,” the Weathermen, “didn’t do enough” in that regard.

Ayers may try to parse the statement to reflect a benign remorse that left-wing activists such as himself were not more effective in ending the Vietnam War. But it’s evident that he is unrepentant (or at least was in the 2001 interview) about his terrorist past. And any reasonable person would assume that by his stating “I feel we didn’t do enough” immediately after “I don’t regret setting bombs” (particularly in the specific context of the article), that he meant to suggest he wished he had caused more physical destruction. In case Ayers’s destructive intent wasn’t clear, there’s this, from the same story:

So, would Mr. Ayers do it all again, he is asked? ”I don’t want to discount the possibility,” he said.

It’s not like Ayers will be able to do much harm anymore from his academic post at the University of Illinois. And I’m glad we’re no longer obsessing over this “washed up terrorist,” as John McCain referred to him. But as long as the media is going to give space to Ayers’s lies, then those lies should be corrected. The Times article accurately summed up Ayers’s evasions: “Mr. Ayers also seems to want to have it both ways, taking responsibility for daring acts in his youth, then deflecting it.”