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John Mercure: Mercurey Rising

Bill Ayers- Unrepentant, Unapologetic, and Unmasked on Wisconsin's Afternoon News

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Bill Ayers is one strange guy. 

Ayers was one of the founders of the radical 1960's group the Weather Underground.  His group was responsible for bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and a New York police station as a way of protesting American involvement in the Vietnam War.

He is also credited with launching the political career of President Barack Obama. They lived in the same neighborhood, their wives worked together, and Ayers hosted a fundraiser for a young Obama back in 1995.

Ayers has long been unrepentant about his anti government activities during the 1960’s, despite the fact that three of his colleagues actually died during a botched bomb making mission in the late 1960’s.

For the better part of a year I had been trying to line up an interview with Ayers. He does a lot of traveling and public speaking now.  We exchanged emails from around the world.  He would write me back from Germany and Egypt.  I could never get him to commit to a specific time.  I felt like he slipped through the cracks over and over again.  He rarely does interviews and I just couldn’t get him locked down.

I reached out to Ayers again last week as the release of a movie profiling the Weather Underground and starring Robert Redford was about to be released.  Once again Ayers was reluctant to talk to me.  We exchanged email.  Most of those coming from him were two or three word answers to my questions.

Just as I was getting completely exasperated, I received and email form Ayers telling me he would talk to me at 11am in two days and he left he his cell phone number.

Sure enough, two days later I called him and he picked up. He informed me that he was in a noisy Harvard coffee shop but he would be sure to make himself heard.  It was loud in the coffee shop and he did make himself heard.

It was an interesting and strange ten minute discussion. He told me had no idea they were even making the movie.  He also told me that he regrets many things he has done in his life, but protesting the Vietnam War is not among them. “You can’t even be eight years old and not have regrets,” Ayers told me.

Ayers also said he is extremely disappointed in his old friend Barack Obama. “No. He is not doing a good job. He is a moderate, pragmatic politician.  It’s not what we need, but it’s what we have,” Ayers said.

It’s always hard when you interview someone like Bill Ayers.  I want to be respectful but I also don’t want to be coddling or soft.  It is a fine line.  I try to be tough but fair.

I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but sometimes that opinion is just wrong.

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