At a Republican rally in Colorado, U.S. Alaskan governor and Vice-Presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin accused Democratic candidate Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country". The charge was repeated at a later rally for around 13,000 Orange County, California supporters.
The accusation centers around a report in The New York Times associating Obama with William C. Ayers, a Chicago professor who was a member of the radical Weathermen group during the 1960s. Ayers was one of the founders of the Weathermen, and involved in their anti-Vietnam War bombing campaign throughout the early 1970s.
Loading her attack with hot-button issues, Palin told supporters "one of Barack's earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol. Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes."
Despite Palin's attack, the original article in the October 3 New York Times concluded that Obama and Ayers were never close, and that the connection was through Obama's initial run for office and a schools reform project, "saying that their paths have crossed sporadically". The report quotes Obama as describing Ayers as, "somebody who worked on education issues in Chicago that I know" and "somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8". According to a campaign spokesman, the two men first met through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational project started in 1995.
Democratic campaign aides claim the alleged relationship has been played up by the presidential hopeful's opponents as a smear campaign. Comparisons to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) have been drawn. SBVT was a political group drawn together during the 2004 presidential election with the aim of opposing John Kerry's candidacy.