NYT Reporter Implies Obama-Ayers 'Not Close' Contrary to Own Reporting

On the same day that the Associated Press noted that "few people watch TV or read newspapers Friday evening and Saturday," the New York Times ran an article questioning Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's questionable relationship with admitted, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. If the AP is correct and Friday is one of the least read days of the week, then it's interesting that the NYT chose to publish one of the most controversial campaign issues when the fewest readers would see it. Nevertheless, the article, "Obama and '60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths," examines the political, social, and professional ties that Obama has with Ayers. Reporter Scott Shane concludes that they're not close, despite contradictory information within the story. Shane wrote in the second paragraph that Obama announced his entrance into public life at Ayers's home.

CHICAGO — At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama's first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.

And again, deeper in the story:

It was later in 1995 that Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn hosted the gathering, in their town house three blocks from Mr. Obama's home, at which State Senator Alice J. Palmer, who planned to run for Congress, introduced Mr. Obama to a few Democratic friends as her chosen successor.

Making such a life-changing decision as running for office is not one that many people would do at the home of just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood." But curiously, Shane includes a sentence in the story that indicates otherwise, without attribution.

But the two men do not appear to have been close.

In fact, according to Shane's own report, several people say Obama isn't being forthright.

A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63.

One example of how the Obama campaign has downplayed the relationship is evident in remarks by Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, according to Shane's story.

He said they have not spoken by phone or exchanged e-mail messages since Mr. Obama began serving in the United States Senate in January 2005 and last met more than a year ago when they bumped into each other on the street in Hyde Park.

Shane did not follow-up on LaBolt's comments. But two questions that quickly came to mind are: 1) Had they spoken by phone or exchanged e-mail messages prior to January, 2005; and 2) under what circumstances did the U.S. senator and Ayers happen to bump into each other. So after writing that Ayers hosted Obama's political coming out party, "donated $200 to Mr. Obama's re-election campaign," and worked with Obama on community boards, Shane closed the story with a quote from Tom Hayden, a Progressives for Obama organizer, that again plays down the relationship, with no follow-up.

"If Barack Obama says he's willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions," Mr. Hayden said, "I can imagine he'd be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that's about as far as their relationship goes."