For Fox News, the Bill Ayers obsession will never go away.
We may be years removed from the 2008 presidential election, when Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of “palling around” with the anti-war radical, retired professor and former domestic terrorist, but Ayers hasn’t fallen off the right’s radar.
Look no further than Fox’s much-ballyhooed “exclusive” interview with Ayers this week. Megyn Kelly, Fox’s self-described “straight-news anchor,” sat down with the Weather Underground leader last week, and she and the network have been hyping the interview ever since.
She offered a dramatic preview Thursday on her program, “The Kelly File.”
“Well, he was a main figure in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2008. The terrorist Sarah Palin accused Mr. Obama of ‘palling around with,'” Kelly teased. “For months, he dodged the press until after his friend was elected President of the United States. It has been six years and for the first time ever the man who is personally believed to have set several bombs off in this country comes into the Fox News headquarters and answers for his acts.”
But Fox viewers would have to wait until Monday to see the interview and, before it even aired that night, Kelly appeared on two of Fox’s highest rated programs for some more promotion.
First, she visited the gang on “The Five” and revealed how she managed to score the big interview. Kelly said that she reached out to Ayers after watching him debate conservative author Dinesh D’Souza at Dartmouth College and “he said yes.”
Next, she showed up on the “O’Reilly Factor,” where she needled the host that she got the interview instead of him.
“Now, are you feeling jealous about that?” she teased Bill O’Reilly, who suggested that Ayers sat down with her because she’s “much more attractive in many senses than I am.”
Finally, at 9 p.m. ET, the moment arrived. The interview was tense at times, but lacked the theatrics that may have come had it been conducted by O’Reilly or Sean Hannity.
Kelly started by asking Ayers, “How many bombings are you responsible for?”
“Weather Underground, I think, took credit for just slightly over 20 in a period when there were 20,000 bombings in the United States against the war,” he told her, but he didn’t say how many for which he would personally take credit.
Ayers maintained throughout the interview that the group’s actions were focused more on property damage rather than the loss of life. They were illegal, he argued, but not fatal.
When Kelly pointed out that they “could have hurt some people,” Ayers brought up the 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion that killed three Weather Underground members, the result of a premature bomb detonation.
The conversation turned topical when Ayers praised war deserters, prompting Kelly to bring up a recent cause célèbre on her program.
“You think Bowe Bergdahl’s a war hero, too,” she said.
“I think Bowe Bergdahl, if he deserted, that was a heroic thing to do,” Ayers said. “Nobody knows if he did or he didn’t. But I did blog about that because I think throughout history we should build monuments to the unknown deserters, the people who look at the craziness they’re asked to participate in and say, ‘I’m not a part of this.'”
Indeed, Ayers is a fairly prolific blogger and he’s been interviewed by other news organizations in recent years, so his conversation didn’t exactly amount to him “breaking his silence,” as “Fox & Friends First” billed the interview Tuesday morning.
Later in the interview, Ayers denied that he had anything to do with a 1970 bombing that killed a San Francisco police officer and injured eight others. In 2009, the San Francisco police union accused both Ayers and his current wife, Bernadine Dohrn (Kelly said the union “recently accused the Weather Underground of this murder.”)
The highlights likely came when Kelly read a passage from the book “Sing a Battle Song” that was co-authored by Ayers, Dohrn and Jeff Jones which seemed to implicate the Weather Underground in another bombing.
“I didn’t write that,” Ayers asserted.
“It’s in your book!” Kelly shot back.
Ayers said the words weren’t his and must have come from an “autonomous group.”
He ultimately told Kelly that he doesn’t mind re-hashing his past, but he said the government’s actions should be scrutinized, too.
“But I think it would be fair and balanced to also look at the violence that was and is going on, perpetrated by the government, by the official agencies and organs of the government,” Ayers said.
As Ayers discovered, that’s the sort of comment that gets you branded a terrorist on Fox.
“Let me just tell you what I hear when I hear that,” Kelly said. “I hear you saying, you sound like, with respect, Osama bin Laden.”
Viewers will have to wait until Tuesday night to hear Ayers elaborate on his relationship with Obama, which, let’s face it, is what this is all about anyway.