Barack Obama calls all the talk about William Ayers a “red herring” and says he thought he had been rehabilitated when he first met him.
From ABC News’ Jake Tapper.
In an interview with conservative Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said his relationship with William Ayers is being questioned and his middle name is being invoked at events for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to distract voters from the economy.
You can listen to the audio HERE, courtesy of Politico.
“This is a red herring,” Obama said of the Ayers story,” because people don’t want to talk about the fact that economy over the last eight years has been mismanaged to the point that we’re teetering on a really, really bad situation.
Smerconish asked about the myriad Republicans at McCain-Palin events this week who referred to “Barack Hussein Obama.”
“I don’t think there’s any secret about this,” Obama said. “My father was from Kenya so I’ve got an Arab-sounding name, and I think most people know that I was raised by my mom who was from Kansas, which is why I’ve got a Kansas-sounding accent…When people are purposely doing this in connection with a theme the McCain campaign’s decided they want to pursue in the past few weeks, which is to go after me personally, in some pretty aggressive ways, then, you know they’re trying to distract from the economy.”
“We’ve got the biggest economic crisis on our hands since the Great Depression,” Obama said, “and Senator McCain’s team has said in the newspapers, they’ve said it publicly, ‘If we talk about the economy, then we lose the election,'” Obama said.
Smerconish said his callers wanted to know about Obama’s trip to Ayers’ home in 1995 to discuss his pending state senate run: why go to his house to begin with?
“I moved to Chicago,” Obama recalled. “I didn’t grow up in Chicago. And graduating from law school I was involved in a whole bunch of civic activities.
“The gentleman in question, Bill Ayers, is a college professor, teaches education at the University of Illinois and that’s how I met him, was working on a school reform project that was funded by an ambassador and former close friend of Ronald Reagan’s and I was sitting on this board along with a whole bunch of conservative businessmen and civic leaders and he was one of the people who was on this board. And he lives in the same neighborhood.
“Ultimately, I ended up learning about the fact that he had engaged in this reprehensible act 40 years ago, but I was eight years old at the time and I assumed that he had been rehabilitated.
And yet the project’s board that Obama was chairing funneled money to Ayers for peace school curriculum and other questionable education activities. Arms length indeed.