In a Fox News special that host Greta Van Susteren said would examine "ties in Senator [Barack] Obama's past that many, frankly, find unsettling," correspondent Gregg Jarrett cited only the views of conservative journalist Stanley Kurtz in reporting on the activities of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, on whose board Obama and member William Ayers served. Neither Jarrett nor Van Susteren gave any indication that they had sought input from any source other than Kurtz in reporting on CAC's activities. In fact, in contrast with Kurtz's claim that the CAC "reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views," Education Week reported that the foundation's work actually "reflected ... mainstream thinking among education reformers."
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During the October 18 Fox News special, Barack Obama: Ties That Bind?, which host Greta Van Susteren said would examine "ties in Senator [Barack] Obama's past that many, frankly, find unsettling," correspondent Gregg Jarrett cited only the views of conservative journalist Stanley Kurtz in reporting on the activities of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an education reform foundation on whose board Obama and former Weather Underground member William Ayers served in the late 1990s and early 2000s. During the segment, Jarrett reported that "Kurtz says" that CAC "favored projects that reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views." Neither Jarrett nor Van Susteren gave any indication that they had sought input from any source other than Kurtz in reporting on CAC's activities. In fact, in an October 15 article (registration required), Education Week reported that while CAC "is being portrayed by John McCain's campaign as an attempt to push radicalism on schools," the foundation's work actually "reflected ... mainstream thinking among education reformers."
Additionally, Jarrett identified Kurtz only as a "senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center" whose "expertise is library research." Kurtz is also a contributing editor at National Review Online, and, according to his bio at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has also written for "the Weekly Standard, Policy Review, City Journal, and Commentary."
During the special, Jarrett reported that following his election to the Illinois State Senate, Obama "continued running the Annenberg Challenge which Kurtz says favored projects that reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views," then aired a portion of an interview with Kurtz, during which Kurtz asserted that "Bill Ayers really was focused on building up the loyalty of minority groups to their own ethnic heritage and downplaying traditional American patriotism." Later in the segment, Jarrett aired another portion of the interview in which Kurtz asserted that in his work with CAC, Obama had been "sending hundreds of thousands of dollars over to Bill Ayers and his radical education projects."
In contrast with Kurtz's assertion that CAC's activities "reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views," Education Week reported:
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge, chaired from 1995 to 1999 by Barack Obama, is being portrayed by John McCain's campaign as an attempt to push radicalism on schools.
The project undertaken in Chicago as part of a high-profile national initiative reflected, however, mainstream thinking among education reformers. The Annenberg Foundation's $49.2 million grant in the city focused on three priorities: encouraging collaboration among teachers and better professional development; reducing the isolation between schools and between schools and their communities; and reducing school size to improve learning.
The other eight urban projects that received money from the foundation under the Annenberg Challenge initiative, launched in 1993 by the philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, pursued similar aims.
And the creation of small schools has continued as a reform strategy nationwide, most recently with major funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
From the October 18 edition of the Fox News special, Barack Obama: Ties That Bind?:
VAN SUSTEREN: The Republicans, after a hard-fought primary, nominated Senator John McCain, a known quantity to most Americans. The Democrats, after an even tougher fight, rejected their best-known candidate for the freshest face ever to win a major party nomination. Yes, Senator Barack Obama's historic candidacy has made him one of the most recognizable people on Earth, but he is still our least-experienced, least-scrutinized presidential candidate ever, and he's running for the most powerful office on Earth.
Lately, the Republicans have questioned ties in Senator Obama's past that many, frankly, find unsettling. Is that fair? Do they really matter? If so, why has discussion of it begun so late?
A quick note: We repeatedly asked both the Obama and McCain campaigns to grant us interviews for this special program -- both declined. But you will hear plenty from the candidates and their supporters as we investigate over the next hour.
VAN SUSTEREN: This much we know: Senator Barack Obama knew and worked with Bill Ayers back in his Chicago days. Beyond that, almost everything is in dispute. Now, Gregg Jarrett tries to sort things out.
[begin video clip]
JARRETT: So, in the Bill Ayers saga, where does Barack Obama fit in? Nobody has been digging harder for the answer than Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His expertise is library research. He found obscure documents buried in university libraries that got him onto the subject of Obama and Ayers, which he has been researching now for several months.
How did William Ayers and Barack Obama come to know one another?
KURTZ: Barack Obama now says he first met Bill Ayers in 1995 when he was introduced to Ayers as part of the process of becoming the chairman of a foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
JARRETT: A foundation with up to $150 million to fund education proposals in the city. Later that year, Obama decided to run for the Illinois statehouse. William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn hosted a meet-and-greet party in their own home. Obama won, but continued running the Annenberg Challenge, which Kurtz says favored projects that reflected Bill Ayers' hard-left views.
JARRETT: Here's what William Ayers wrote: "Teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression."
KURTZ: Bill Ayers really was focused on building up the loyalty of minority groups to their own ethnic heritage and downplaying traditional American patriotism.
[end video clip]
McCAIN: We need to know the full extent of that relationship.
JARRETT: As expected, in the last presidential debate, the candidates went nose-to-nose on Bill Ayers.
[begin video clip]
McCAIN: And you launched your political campaign in Mr. Ayers' living room.
OBAMA: That's absolutely not true.
McCAIN: And the facts are facts and records are records.
OBAMA: And that's not the facts.
McCAIN: And it's not the fact -- it's not the fact that Senator Obama choose to associate with a guy who, in 2001, said that he wished he would've bombed more.
OBAMA: Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Senator McCain's campaign over the last two or three weeks. This has been their primary focus, so let's get the record straight. Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago. Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts.
Ten years ago, he served and I served on a school board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. [Walter] Annenberg. Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of the Chicago Tribune, a Republican-leaning newspaper.
Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign, and he will not advise me in the White House. So that's Mr. Ayers.
[end video clip]
SOL STERN (Manhattan Institute senior fellow): Ayers hasn't said a word, for the first time in his life.
JARRETT: Is anyone who sat on a board or even socialized with William Ayers disqualified from holding high public office?
KURTZ: Sitting on a board together, not necessarily, but if what you're doing on that board is sending hundreds of thousands of dollars over to Bill Ayers and his radical education projects, then I would raise an eyebrow.