In the pantheon of insane anti-Obama conspiracy theories, few hold a candle to the idea that former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers secretly wrote Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father.
This particular bit of crackerjack analysis was popularized by WorldNetDaily writers Jack Cashill and Aaron Klein, who have based their theories on "evidence" like the frequency of nautical terms in Obama's book, despite the fact that "Obama gives little indication that he has any real experience with the sea or ships beyond bodysurfing at Waikiki." (Slightly less unhinged conservatives like David Freddoso have labeled Cashill's work on this "a lot of crap, all conjecture and no concrete evidence.")
The Ayers ghostwriter theory has been back in full force this week, thanks to some conservative bloggers' inability to detect sarcasm. Speaking at Montclair State University last week, Ayers responded to a question from an audience member by joking that he "wrote" Obama's autobiography, and saying, "if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you." Ayers was quite clearly kidding, and, as Jim Newell explains at Gawker, he's used this same joke before.
Numerous conservative websites like NewsBusters (which exists to lecture places like the New York Times on how to properly conduct their journalistic activities) promoted the Ayers comment as an admission that he wrote Obama's book. The story does seem to have caused a bit of a rift in the conservative blogosphere, however, with Dan Riehl writing that people running with the supposed admission look like "a bunch of Kool-Aid inebriated Right Wing nut jobs."
And while it's always good sport to point and laugh at the clownishness of certain corners of the conservative media, it's important to point out that conspiracies theories like this are actually not out of the conservative mainstream - they are the bread and butter of the movement.
In his upcoming book, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its release, Andrew Breitbart asserts that Ayers wrote Obama's book. Twice.
In a chapter titled, "Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries," Breitbart discusses the rise of conservative "citizen journalists" and purports to enumerate their various accomplishments. Apparently unfamiliar with the words "proved" and "reasonable," Brietbart lists among citizen journalist accomplishments that they "proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers." From Breitbart's Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World:
In the past few years alone, citizen journalists have deposed Dan Rather for his scurrilous and baseless attacks on George W. Bush; exposed John Kerry's true war record during the 2004 election cycle; debunked Reuters's photography fraud in the Middle East; proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers; gotten rid of communist Van Jones; and the list goes on. [Righteous Indignation, pg 149-150]
On the next page, advising activists to "Be open about your secrets," Breitbart again references Obama's "Ayers-written autobiography":
3. Be open about your secrets. If you're going to go out in public, be absolutely open about what you've done in the past. Take a page from Barack Obama, who revealed in his Ayers-written autobiography that he had done a bit of blow, hung out with commies and racists like Jeremiah Wright, and hated whitey. Once it was out there, there wasn't much the right could do with it - he'd already admitted it. [Righteous Indignation, pg 150]
We'll have more on Breitbart's book closer to the release date, but this seemed as good a time as any to remind people that he shouldn't be taken seriously.
Update: Proving yet again that there is nothing too absurd for conservative media outlets to promote, Fox & Friends hosted Cashill this morning to discuss his various conspiracy theories about Obama, including the idea that Ayers wrote Obama's book.
Update 2: In contrast to the review copy we were sent, Breitbart's endorsement of Cashill's theory is somewhat toned down in the retail version of the book.
Whereas in the version we were sent Breitbart says citizen journalists have "proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography, it now says that citizen journalists have "raised the question whether Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."