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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: If Palin was banned from discussing Ayers, no one told her

As a vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin talked about Bill Ayers several times.

Getty Images (2012)

As a vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin talked about Bill Ayers several times.

The statement

"I was banned from talking about" Bill Ayers during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Sarah Palin, on Friday in an interview with Fox News

The ruling

Ayers lived in Barack Obama's Chicago neighborhood and was an early supporter. What made Ayers interesting was that in the 1960s, he was one of the founders of the Weather Underground, a group responsible for bombings at a New York City police station, the Capitol and the Pentagon. There were no injuries.

When Palin said she was banned from mentioning Ayers as the Republican vice presidential candidate, we were surprised. That's because we fact-checked her claim about Ayers in October 2008. We had video of Palin talking about him at a rally in Clearwater. Two days before, the New York Times carried a front-page story about Obama and Ayers; Palin mentioned the story:

"He was a domestic terrorist. And part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.' Wow.

"And there's even more to the story. Barack Obama said Ayers was just someone in the neighborhood. But that's less than truthful. His own top adviser said they were, quote, 'certainly friendly.' In fact, Obama held one of the first meetings of his political career in Bill Ayers' home. And they've worked together on various projects in Chicago."

Back then, we rated Palin's statement Mostly True.

Was this a case of Palin going rogue? Not likely. About a week later, McCain himself raised the shadow of Ayers briefly during his final debate with Obama.

The final proof that none of this was off-the-cuff and in fact was coming from those "braniacs in the GOP machine" as Palin put it, came in the form of robo-calls. On Oct. 18, 2008, the Washington Post reported that voters in Virginia, Ohio and Florida were picking up the phone and hearing this from the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee:

"Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans."

It's possible Palin wanted to talk about Ayers earlier in the campaign. We reached out to her Political Action Committee for clarification on the claim but did not hear back. Her words on Fox News gave no indication of anything but a ban. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: If Palin was banned from discussing Ayers, no one told her 08/01/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 1, 2013 9:55pm]
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