MSNBC's Witt falsely suggested Obama concealed Ayers event when referring to Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood"

MSNBC's Witt falsely suggested Obama concealed Ayers event when referring to Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

MSNBC's Alex Witt falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama concealed the fact that William Ayers hosted an event for him when he referred to Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood" during an April Democratic primary debate. In fact, in those remarks, Obama was responding to a question about the "organizing meeting" that Ayers hosted for him, and did not deny that the event took place.

On the October 9 edition of MSNBC's News Live, host Alex Witt claimed that Sen. Barack Obama "originally dismissed" former Weather Underground member William Ayers as "just a guy from the neighborhood despite the fact that Ayers did, in fact, host an event for Obama when he was running for state Senate." Witt went on to ask former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), "[D]o you think that Barack Obama has always been completely honest about his ties to Ayers?" But contrary to Witt's suggestion, Obama did not attempt to conceal the fact that Ayers "host[ed] an event" for him when he referred to Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood." In fact, the very question Obama was responding to addressed the "organizing meeting" that Ayers hosted for Obama, and Obama did not deny that the event took place.

Moreover, Obama did not use the word "just" when he described Ayers as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," as Witt claimed. Witt's injection of the word "just" into Obama's statement recalls a McCain campaign ad, which asserts: "When their relationship became an issue, Obama just responded, 'This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood.' That's it?"

From the exchange between Obama and debate co-moderator and ABC host George Stephanopoulos, during the April 16 Democratic primary debate in Philadelphia:

STEPHANOPOULOS: A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about.

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George.

From the October 9 edition of MSNBC's News Live:

WITT: Could Bill Ayers derail Barack Obama's run for the White House? John McCain is trying to raise questions about the depth of Obama's relationship with the man who bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol in the 1970s. Obama's campaign says the two haven't been in contact in years.

OBAMA [video clip]: The notion that somehow he has been involved in my campaign, that he is an adviser of mine, that he -- I've "palled around with a terrorist" -- all these statements are made simply to try to score cheap political points.

WITT: Iowa's former Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack is an Obama supporter. It's good to see you again, governor. Thanks for being here.

VILSACK: You bet, Alex. Thank you.

WITT: John McCain insists Obama hasn't been truthful about this relationship, and what he's trying to do is reveal the truth. Obama originally dismissed him as just a "guy from the neighborhood" despite the fact that Ayers did, in fact, host an event for Obama when he was running for state Senate. So, do you think that Barack Obama has always been completely honest about his ties to Ayers?

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Alex Witt
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
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