Ayers Comments On Obama

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CHICAGOBill Ayers, the Vietnam War-era radical who was a campaign headache for Barack Obama, says in a new afterword to his memoir that the two were neighbors and family friends. Ayers' reflections appear in a new paperback release of his 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days." The Associated Press obtained a copy of the new afterword Thursday.

Now an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Ayers helped found the Vietnam-era radical group the Weathermen, which carried out bombings at the Pentagon and the Capitol.

During this year's presidential campaign, Republican John McCain's camp accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists" because of his past connections to Ayers. In addition to a meet-the-candidate event Ayers hosted more than a dozen years when Obama was starting his political career, Ayers and Obama served on a Chicago school reform group and a foundation board.

Obama has denounced Ayers' violent past and said Ayers was never involved in his White House campaign.

In the afterword, Ayers does not elaborate on the description of "family friends."

"In 2008 there was a lot of chatter on the blogosphere about my relationship with Barack Obama: we had served together on the board of a foundation, knew one another as neighbors and family friends, held an initial fundraiser at my house, where I'd made a small donation to his earliest political campaign," Ayers writes.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt declined immediate comment on Ayers' new writings.

Ayers has declined previous interview requests from The Associated Press and did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Thursday.

Ayers lives just a few blocks from Obama on Chicago's South Side with his wife, former fellow radical Bernardine Dohrn. Now a law professor at Northwestern University, Dohrn was a fugitive for years with her husband until they surrendered in 1980. Charges against him were dropped because of government misconduct, which included FBI break-ins, wiretaps and opening of mail.

Ayers has downplayed his relationship with Obama.

"I think my relationship with Obama was probably like thousands of others in Chicago. And, like millions and millions of others, I wish I knew him better," Ayers said in a recent Washington Post interview.

Ayers writes that Obama's enemies saw their connections as a chance to "deepen a dishonest narrative about him."

"That he is somehow un-American, alien, linked to radical ideas, a closet terrorist, a sympathizer with extremism," Ayers writes.

Ayers said it was "more than guilt by association," something he called "a deep and ugly tradition in our political life."