Chris Cuomo took Chicago professor and former Weather Underground leader William Ayers to task today on Good Morning America for being unclear about his relationship with Barack Obama, which was a hotly debated issue among the president-elect's foes during the election. Ayers did his best to fend off Cuomo's questions, explaining just how minimal was his relationship with Obama, and justifying, in vague terms, his actions 40 years ago.
"I knew Barack Obama, absolutely," Ayers explained. "And I knew him probably as well as thousands of other Chicagoans. And like millions of other people worldwide, I wish I knew him better." Ayers said also that, though Obama did have a coffee in his house at the start of his political career, he thought "he was probably in twenty homes that day."
He attacked directly the premise that their acquaintance was an issue, calling it a "profoundly dishonest narrative":
"I don't buy the idea that guilt by association should have any part of our politics," Ayers said. "The assumption that if two people who share a cup of coffee together, or take a bus downtown together, or have a thousand other types of associations that that somehow means that they share politics outlook, policy or responsibility for one another's actions."
Also, in an interview segment that will surely raise the hackles on the back of Elisabeth Hasselbeck's neck, Ayers said he remains unrepentant about the violent acts from the sixties.
"What you call a violent past, that was at a time when thousands of people were being murdered by our government [in Vietnam] every month and those of us who fought against that were on the right side."
"I never hurt or killed anyone," Ayers added, dismissing the idea that his sixties actions constituted "terrorism" and going on to repeat something that enraged Obama's foes during the campaign. "I don't think we did enough, just as today I don't think we did enough to stop these wars."
Ayers said, in fact, that Obama's openness to him should be viewed as a plus, not a minus. "The fact that he's willing to talk to a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life, listen to a lot of different opinions, and still have a mind of his own is something we should honor and admire," he said.
'GMA' Exclusive Interview With William Ayers [ABC News]