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Rumor Check: Does the Description From Bill Ayers' New Memoir Admit That He Wrote Obama's First Book?


"It was a joke. It was meant to be funny."

Public Enemy by Bill Ayers

Does the description from Bill Ayers' new memoir really admit he ghostwrote President Barack Obama's first book?

Public Enemy by Bill Ayers (Beacon Press, 2013)

No and yes.

He “confessed,” as the book description of Ayers' new memoir “Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident” says. But it was all in a mocking way that was very clear from the book, the publisher tells TheBlaze.

Nevertheless, last week, the rumor emerged again, circulating in a major newspaper editorial, then across the web and talk radio that Ayers was the author of Obama's first book, “Dreams from My Father.”

Here's what the actual description in question says:

“Ayers reveals how he has navigated the challenges and triumphs of this public life with steadfastness and a dash of good humor—from the red carpet at the Oscars, to prison vigils and airports (where he is often detained and where he finally 'confesses' that he did write Dreams from My Father), and ultimately on the ground at Grant Park in 2008 and again in 2012.”

“You can see that it was a joke. It was meant to be funny,” Pamela MaColl, communications director for Beacon Press, the publisher of Ayers' book, told TheBlaze. “It is what it is.”

The book describes an encounter Ayers had with blogger Anne Leary at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. When she asked him if he wrote "Dreams from My Father," he answered yes, and continued to tell her, “I just made the whole thing up, ghostwrote the entire book. I doubt that he [Obama] even proofed it. Now if you can help me prove that I wrote it, I'll split the royalties with you.”

In his new book, Ayers describes the implication that he wrote Obama's book as absurd. So theories might continue that Ayers authored the book, but what is objectively provable is that he did not admit to doing so in any serious way in his own book.

The following is the portion from "Public Enemy," addressing the charge that he wrote Dreams from My Father:

The story that I had secretly ghostwritten Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama's beautifully constructed memoir had gone wild in a shadow corner of the blogosphere. A bunch of cranks fed the fire at first, and soon enough more serious analyst signed on and spoke up about the vast, complex conspiracy that I was orchestrating, perhaps even dictating Obama's thoughts. How could I ever prove the negative?

I was walking through Reagan National Airport when a mild-looking middle aged woman approached me and asked if I were Bill Ayers. “I am,” I said. “What's your name?”

“I'm Anne Leary,” she replied as we walked along.

“What do you do?”

“I'm a right-wing blogger,” she said without hesitation. “And I'd love to ask you one question.”

“Sure,” I said. “Shoot.”

“Did you write Dreams from My Father?” she asked, and I laughed out loud.

Here we go, I thought and then – FLASH! – I had an inspiration. We stopped and I turned to face her. I asked her to please quote me exactly. “Of course I will,” she said.

“Yes, yes,” I said. “OK. I wrote Dreams, every word of it,” I said. “Are you getting this down, Anne? I met Barack Obama maybe three or four times total on this project, and then I just made the whole thing up, ghostwrote the entire book. I doubt that he even proofed it. Now if you can help me prove that I wrote it, I'll split the royalties with you.”

Anne was true to her word. She posted the interview, and her obscure little site got tons of hits and lots of links, soaring upward on a big traffic-ranking site to number 3 and then number 2 and finally number 1! Wow! Anne was big time now in her murky little echo chamber, a real hero for finally getting confirmation on a story they all knew to be true but couldn't prove until now.

From hero to goat in a matter of days: first Jonah Goldberg, then National Journal and Rush Limbaugh and finally the Times, which said that it sounded like “Ayers is jerking some chains.” The story suffered a sudden unanticipated reversal, and they began to bicker and dig a bit of a trough for themselves. If they said I wrote the book, that was an example of courageous and intrepid investigative journalism; if I said I wrote the book, that was just me being a goofball, while making asses out of them. The real story, as Rush saw it, was that I did write the book, but by admitting that I did, I was actually clearly asserted that I didn't write the book. Oh, what a tangled web I weave!

Ayers is a retired professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. As a member of the Weather Underground in the 1960s, he participated in bombings, and was a fugitive along with wife Bernardine Dohrn. Federal charges were dropped against the two in 1973 because of FBI overreach in the investigation.

His past was a campaign issue in the 2008 presidential election, when GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin famously said that Obama was “palling around” with terrorisst. As a state legislator in Illinois, Obama ran an education nonprofit with Ayers in the 1990s called the “Chicago Annenberg Challenge.” Obama also visited the Ayers home when he began his first state Senate campaign in 1995.



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