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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg July 30, 2013

Sarah Palin says GOP banned mention of Ayers in '08

Sarah Palin still speaks bitterly about 2008. The former Republican vice-presidential candidate spoke on Fox News recently about current matters such as the raid on the American diplomatic outpost in Libya and the IRS vetting of nonprofit applications when she turned back to the 2008 presidential campaign.

"I was banned from talking about Jeremiah Wright and Obama's friend, Bill Ayers, the character that he befriended and kicked off his political campaign in the guy's living room," Palin said. "Couldn't talk about that."

Palin pointed a finger at who she thought was to blame.

"I was not allowed to talk about things like that because those elitists, those who are the brainiacs in the GOP machine running John McCain's campaign at the time, said that the media would eat us alive if we brought up these things."

For those who might not remember, Bill Ayers lived in Barack Obama’s Chicago neighborhood and was an early supporter when Obama first ran for the Illinois state Senate. What made Ayers interesting in 2008 was that in the 1960s, he was one of the founders of the Weather Underground, a group that was responsible for bombings at a New York City police station, the Capitol, and the Pentagon. There were no injuries.

Obama’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, brought up Ayers during the primary, but the issue failed to gain much traction.

When Palin said she was banned from mentioning Ayers, we at PolitiFact were a bit surprised. That’s because we fact-checked her claim about Ayers in early October 2008. We had video of Palin talking about him at a rally in Clearwater, Fla. Three days before, the New York Times had carried a front-page story about Obama and Ayers; Palin mentioned the story.

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

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"And there’s even more to the story," Palin said. "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.

"Mr. Ayers, I don't care about an old washed-up terrorist. But as Sen. Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship," McCain said.

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 that Palin had wanted to talk about Ayers earlier in the campaign. We reached out to her Political Action Committee for clarification but did not hear back. But her words on Fox News gave no indication of anything but a ban.

Our ruling

Palin said she was banned from talking about one-time domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, but the record shows the complete and utter opposite. Not only did Palin talk about Ayers, so did the man at the top of the ticket, as did a recorded message from the RNC that went out to voters in battleground states. When the public record and the candidate’s own words speak so strongly against a statement, we have little choice.
We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Fox News, Sneak Peek: Second term scandals, July 26, 2013

Real Clear Politicts, Sarah Palin: "I Was Not Allowed" To Tell The Truth About Obama In 2008, July 26, 2013

PolitiFact, Obama and Ayers, Round II, October 6, 2008

CBS News, Palin on Obama-Ayers, October 6, 2008

New York Times, Third presidential debate transcript, October 18, 2008

Washington Post, ‘60s radical Ayers among subjects of McCain ‘robo-calls’, October 18, 2008

New York Times, Obama and the ‘60s bomber: A look into crossed paths, October 3, 2008

Slate, Explaining the Weather Underground, June 6, 2003

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Sarah Palin says GOP banned mention of Ayers in '08

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