Abrams Overlooks Ayers's Terrorism and Connection to Obama

Dan Abrams with John Decker, MSNBC News Live | NewsBusters.orgDuring the 11 a.m. EDT hour of Tuesday’s MSNBC “News Live,” host Dan Abrams interviewed Reuters Washington correspondent John Decker about Senator Obama’s campaign seeking a criminal investigation against the American Issues Project over an ad which links Obama to terrorist Bill Ayers.

While none of the American Issues Project ad was shown, MSNBC did help Obama rebut any claims of a connection between Obama and Ayers by airing part of Obama’s response ad: “Why is John McCain talking about the sixties trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers? McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes committed when Obama was just 8 years old.”

Just like in the Obama ad, Abrams only referred to Ayers as a “radical,” and never mentioned the bombings Ayers took part in or his September 2001 statement that, "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough."

Abrams also neglected to inform his viewers of the essential details of the Obama-Ayers connection. As the Washington Post’s “fact checker” noted:

Both Obama and Ayers were members of the board of an anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 1999 and 2002. In addition, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate in April 2001, as reported here. They lived within a few blocks of each other in the trendy Hyde Park section of Chicago, and moved in the same liberal-progressive circles.

Interestingly, though, John Decker actually chided the Obama campaign’s call for a criminal investigation over the Ayers ad. After being prompted by Abrams to talk about what Obama has to do to respond to attack ads (as though John McCain is never attacked by outside groups like MoveOn.org), Decker asked:

DECKER: Well, you’re a lawyer. Do you think this is the best way to respond to an attack ad?

ABRAMS: That, by, you mean in another attack ad?

DECKER: Well, by actually calling for a criminal investigation. Actually bringing in the lawyers to respond to some sort of political advertising.

Abrams then tried to explain that the action taken by the Obama campaign is purely political:

ABRAMS: Because, you know what, in the end it’s not a legal response. In the end, it’s really a political response. What they’re doing is they’re effectively putting on a show. A legal show. They’re saying this is so bad, this is so wrong, this is so awful that we want lawyers to get involved. I think it’s a way to make their point. So I actually think that in the end it’s probably not legal analysis as much as it is political analysis.

Still, Decker thought that a criminal investigation was a little much:

DECKER: I think that the way they need to respond to advertising is with more hard hitting advertising, not criminal investigations or asking for a criminal investigation or, you know possibly filing, I know we’re not there yet, a lawsuit, or asking for some sort of injunction from television stations to prevent…. But to prevent an ad from being aired. I think that they need to come up with a response to this. If they think it’s a big deal they gotta hit John McCain hard.

A transcript of the segment follows:

DAN ABRAMS, host: Barack Obama’s campaign crying foul today over a new independent attack ad hitting the airwaves in some battleground states. The American Issues Project is spending $2.8 million dollars to link Obama to 1960’s radical Bill Ayers. Now the Obama campaign is launching an aggressive effort to block the ad, actually asking for a criminal investigation of the American Issues Project. The campaign is also pressuring television networks not to run the ad, and they’re airing a response to the ad in Ohio. John Decker-

CLIP OF OBAMA AD: Why is John McCain talking about the sixties trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers? McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes committed when Obama was just 8 years old.

[GRAPHIC: TERROR ATTACK AD: THIRD PARTY GROUP RELEASES AD LINKING OBAMA TO TERROR]

ABRAMS: John Decker is Washington correspondent for Reuters. All right. This has gotta be an important issue, uh, in this campaign in terms of strategy which is how do we deal with attack ads? How quickly do we respond?

DECKER: Well, you’re a lawyer. Do you think this is the best way to respond to an attack ad?

ABRAMS: That, by, you mean in another attack ad?

DECKER: Well, by actually calling for a criminal investigation. Actually bringing in the lawyers to respond to some sort of political advertising.

ABRAMS: Because, you know what, in the end it’s not a legal response. In the end, it’s really a political response. What they’re doing is they’re effectively putting on a show. A legal show. They’re saying this is so bad, this is so wrong, this is so awful that we want lawyers to get involved. I think it’s a way to make their point. So I actually think that in the end it’s probably not legal analysis as much as it is political analysis.

DECKER: It’s interesting you say, because you are a legal scholar-

ABRAMS: Thank you so much.

DECKER: You’re welcome. And I would say that, you know, for most Americans, they’re not impressed with lawsuits. They’re not impressed with criminal investigations. If you get hit hard-

ABRAMS: Lawsuits are different than criminal investigations though.

DECKER: Okay.

ABRAMS: People hate lawsuits. Criminal investigations, if they think the bad guy’s will get caught, it’s different.

DECKER: Okay, when you think criminal investigation, you don’t think political advertising though.

ABRAMS: No. Not usually.

DECKER: Yeah. I think that the way they need to respond to advertising is with more hard hitting advertising, not criminal investigations or asking for a criminal investigation or, you know possibly filing, I know we’re not there yet, a lawsuit, or asking for some sort of injunction from television stations to prevent-

ABRAMS: Bush did Gore. [laughter]

DECKER: Well, that’s true. But to prevent an ad from being aired. I think that they need to come up with a response to this. If they think it’s a big deal they gotta hit John McCain hard.

ABRAMS: Which they did. I mean, you saw that ad we just played. We played the response ad there. Right away, they're going after them. They must have a major effort in place of people sitting around who are only responsibility is respond to the attack ads.

DECKER: Oh, absolutely. Look what happened at the beginning of this convention. Two quick ads from John McCain’s campaign surprisingly aired 3:00 in the morning, getting back to Hillary’s three o’clock ad, one featuring Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and the other, you know, going after Barack Obama as to words that were used against him in the campaign. Both campaigns have well oiled machines for this.

ABRAMS: John Decker, thanks so much. You're never suppose today answer a question by asking one back.

DECKER: I put you on the spot, didn’t I?

ABRAMS: John, good to see you.