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Help unlock the Obama/Ayers papers; Update: Response from UIC; AP’s lousy coverage

By Michelle Malkin  •  August 19, 2008 09:02 PM

Scroll for updates…reader sends response from UIC…and the MSM catches up, almost…


Stanley Kurtz has done yeoman’s work trying to uncover the true nature of the relationship between Barack Obama and Weather Underground terrorist-turned-academic William Ayers. (See Barack and Michelle and Bill and Bernardine for background.) And see the must-read post by Steve Diamond: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”

During his in-depth investigation and travels to Chicago to dig deeper, Kurtz has run into unexpected (or perhaps, quite expected) roadblocks:

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama’s account seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama’s time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers’s own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago’s public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago’s education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers’s radical views on education issues. With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore “exchanging ideas on a regular basis”). So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama’s dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.

This much we know from the public record, but a large cache of documents housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is likely to flesh out the story. That document cache contains the internal files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The records in question are extensive, consisting of 132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material. Not only would these files illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, they would also provide significant insight into a web of ties linking Obama to various radical organizations, including Obama-approved foundation gifts to political allies. Obama’s leadership style and abilities are also sure to be illuminated by the documents in question.


Unfortunately, I don’t yet have access to the documents. The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial.

Read the entire piece for the full details of the runaround. Kurtz is asking for help appealing to the president of the University of Illinois system, B. Joseph White:

“The Chicago Annenberg Challenge records almost surely contain important information on Senator Obama’s political associations, policy views, ideological leanings, and leadership ability. His role as board chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge is the most important executive experience Obama has held to date. Given this, the public has an urgent right to know what is in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records.

…Ask [White] to take immediate public steps to insure the safety of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, to release the identity of the Collection’s donor, and above all to swiftly make the Collection available to me, and to the public at large.

Email here.

Phone/Fax here.


If you send a note, also post it here or cc me and I’ll keep a collection of the complaints and any responses.

Kurtz reports the documents are in danger. Related transcript here.


Previous Bill Ayers blog posts.


Update: Reader Mark sends a response from UIC…

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Bill Burton
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 3:38:05 PM
Subject: Re: request

Dear Mr. McNabb:

Thank you for your inquiry. Responses are below.

Please note that I have no connection to the Obama spokesman by the same name.

Bill Burton

> Mr Burton, just got off the phone with you. I would be happy if you
> could provide me with the statement you mentioned re: the Chicago
> Annenberg Challenge documents that were suddenly pulled from public
> access, as well as access by Mr Stanley Kurtz.

The University of Illinois at Chicago released the following statement
Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008.

“The University Library supports the teaching, research, and service
missions of the University by acquiring, organizing, preserving, and
providing access to information. The Library is open to the public and
dedicated to free inquiry. The University has not received ownership
rights to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge collection. The university is
aggressively pursuing an agreement with the donor, and as soon as an
agreement is finalized, the collection will be made accessible to the
> For the record, I am also shocked and amazed that the
> University employs the radical U.S. terrorist William Ayers. I
> believe that is an apalling fact.

In the 1970s, Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical
group opposing the Vietnam War. Federal charges against him were later
dropped; he has never been convicted of a crime.

Professor Ayers was already a well-regarded scholar of education when he
joined UIC in 1987. Since joining UIC, he has published several
influential books, founded the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for
Youth and Society, served on several community and foundation boards,
and earned national recognition for his work in the education of
children. We have no evidence that he has ever used his position for
advocacy inappropriate to the education curriculum.

The university has always been transparent about Professor Ayersʼ
employment during his two decades on our faculty. We know from
correspondence we have received over the years that many people find his
past activities and statements objectionable. Thank you for informing us
of your opinion.


Mark Rosati
Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs

Bill Burton
News Bureau Director
University of Illinois at Chicago
Ph 312-996-2269
Fx 312-996-3754


Update: Follow-up from Dan Riehl…

At least on the surface of it, it appears these records were somehow taken back, or removed from public access. That’s a very different thing than the appropriate permissions not having been granted in the first place. Would a responsible Library accept and list such documents before that step was done? I think someone has some explaining to do, especially considering a good deal, if not all of this involves public funding.

Update: Tom Maguire covers the MSM coverage of Obama/Ayers from the AP’s Pete Yost and helpfully points out what the AP failed to report…

Yost makes no mention of the fact that Obama was asked about Ayers at the Philadelphia debate in April and described him as “”a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago…”, rather than as “a guy I worked with on education reform for six years without accomplishing anything” (The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was ultimately judged a failure by the Annenberg Foundation.)

Yost makes no mention of the fact that the Obama website produced a “Fact Check” on the Obama/Ayers relationship which made no mention of this failed collaboration on education reform.

Yost makes no mention of the fact that previously the Obama campaign was telling reporters that (a) Obama and Ayers met through kids who went to the same school, or (b) Obama and Ayers first met in the second half of 1995 when Ayers hosted a campaign kick-off for Obama. Since Obama became chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in January 1995, that was false.

In fact, its almost as if the Obama campaign has tried to conceal this Obama/Ayers relationship. And now some mysterious unnamed donor is continuing the cover-up by sitting on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge archives.

And Yost almost reports on it.

So what does it mean? Well, none of us can judge the relationship at this point since a lot of possibly important information is being concealed. But the fact of an ongoing cover-up might spark some journalist’s curiosity.

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Categories: Barack Obama, Bill Ayers