Hannity, Andersen advance discredited claim that Ayers helped Obama pen his autobiography

During an interview on Fox News, Sean Hannity and author Christopher Andersen agreed that “Bill Ayers helped [President Obama] with his book” Dreams From My Father and that “literary devices and themes [in the book] bear a jarring similarity to Ayers' own writings” -- a conservative talking point during the 2008 election that Andersen also advances in his new book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage (William Morrow, 2009). However, an Oxford professor who conducted a computerized analysis of Obama's book and Ayers' memoir Fugitive Days at the suggestion of former Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) reportedly found that it was “very implausible” that Ayers helped Obama write his autobiography.

Hannity: Andersen “found the literary devices and themes” in Obama's book “bear a jarring similarity to Ayers' own writings”

From the September 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: You write a lot about Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright. And Reverend Wright even weighed in on the “yes, we can” slogan very positively. And you write about that. Page 210, I just happen to remember it. But Bill Ayers helped him with his book, and you actually pick up -- you found the literary devices and themes bear a jarring similarity to Ayers' own writings.

ANDERSEN: That's true. And they were good friends. I mean, during the campaign, of course, he tried --

HANNITY: They were good friends.

ANDERSEN: Yes, of course, they were.

HANNITY: He denied it.

ANDERSEN: It was kind of -- yes, he did. And it was a little like a literary cabal there that was interesting in Chicago. They were all giving each other quotes for, you know, the blurbs to promote their respective books.

HANNITY: So Sean Hannity was right when I said that they were close friends.


HANNITY: He started his political career at his house.


HANNITY: He, you know, sat on boards with him, gave speeches with him. They were good friends.

ANDERSEN: Yes, they were.

In Barack and Michelle, Andersen writes that “Ayers's contribution” to Dreams was “significant”

From Barack and Michelle, pages 165-166:

In the end, Ayers's contribution of Barack's Dreams from My Father would be significant -- so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similiarity to Ayers's own writings. Even the caveat at the beginning of Dreams, in which Barack points out that he uses invented dialogue, embellished facts, composite characters, inaccurate chronology, and pseudonyms to create an “approximation” of reality, resembles Ayers's defense of the inaccuracies in his memoir Fugitive Days. In the foreword to his book, Ayers states that the book is merely a collection of his personal memories and “impressions.”

“There was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Hyde Park,” said writer Jack Cashill, who noted that a mutual friend of Barack and Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, thanked Ayers for helping him with his book Resurrecting Empire. Ayers, explained Cashill, “provided an informal editing service for like-minded friends in the neighborhood.”


Thanks to help from the veteran writer Ayers, Barack would be able to submit a manuscript to his editors at Times Books.

But Oxford professor who conducted computer study found claim to be “very implausible”

In a November 2, 2008, article, The Sunday Times of London reported:

The Republicans have made a last-minute attempt to prevent Barack Obama's ascent to the White House by trying to recruit an Oxford academic to “prove” that his autobiography was ghostwritten by a former terrorist.

With two days before the election, Obama is poised to become America's first black president, according to polls showing he has an average six-point lead over John McCain, his Republican opponent.

Dr Peter Millican, a philosophy don at Hertford College, Oxford, has devised a computer software program that can detect when works are by the same author by comparing favourite words and phrases.

He was contacted last weekend and offered $10,000 (£6,200) to assess alleged similarities between Obama's bestseller, Dreams from My Father, and Fugitive Days, a memoir by William Ayers.

Ayers, now a university professor in Chicago, co-founded the Weathermen, a radical 1960s underground group that bombed government buildings in Washington and New York. The Republicans accuse Obama of “palling around” with him.

The offer to Millican to prove that Ayers wrote Obama's book was made by Robert Fox, a California businessman and brother-in-law of Chris Cannon, a Republican congressman from Utah. He hoped to corroborate a theory advanced by Jack Cashill, an American writer.

Fox and Cannon each suggested to The Sunday Times that the other had taken the initiative.

Cannon said that he merely recommended computer testing of the books. He doubted whether Obama wrote his autobiography, adding: “If Ayers was the author, that would be interesting.”

Fox said he had hoped that Cannon would raise the $10,000 to run a computer test. “It was Congressman Cannon who initially pointed me in that direction and, from our conversation, I thought he might be able to find someone [to raise the $10,000].”

He believed that if “proof” of Ayers's involvement was provided by an Oxford academic it would be political dynamite.

Fox contacted Millican, who said: “He was entirely upfront about this. He offered me $10,000 and sent me electronic versions of the text from both books.”

Millican took a preliminary look and found the charges “very implausible”. A deal was agreed for more detailed research but when Millican said the results had to be made public, even if no link to Ayers was proved, interest waned.

Millican said: “I thought it was extremely unlikely that we would get a positive result. It is the sort of thing where people make claims after seeing a few crude similarities and go overboard on them.”

Limbaugh, WND's Cashill linked Obama's book to Ayers in fall 2008

Limbaugh suggested Obama “may not have written this book.” In October 2008, Rush Limbaugh cited a passage from Dreams and said: "[Obama] doesn't talk this way. You know, there are stories out there he may not have written this book." Limbaugh cited WorldNetDaily columnist Jack Cashill, who theorized in an article for the conservative Web magazine American Thinker that Ayers wrote Dreams, arguing that Ayers “writes surprisingly well and very much like 'Obama,' ” and that “when Ayers speaks, even off the cuff, he uses a cadence and vocabulary consistent with his memoir. One does not hear any of Dreams in Obama's casual speech.” Cashill devoted several WorldNetDaily columns to advancing this claim.