This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," May 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Obama has been bashed for his association with William Ayers. Ayers has served on a board with Senator Obama in Chicago, and Ayers held an organizational meeting in his home for Senator Obama's state Senate campaign in 1985.
Why exactly is Senator Obama being slammed? It is because Ayers, who is now a Chicago professor, was a member of the radical group The Weather Underground. But just what is The Weather Underground? Our next guest says that group tried to kill him and his family.
John Murtagh, a lawyer and an adjunct professor of Public Policy at the Fordham University College of Liberal Studies joins us in New York. Welcome, John.
JOHN MURTAGH, SAYS WEATHERMEN BOMBED HIS HOME: Good evening, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: John, take me back to 1970. How old were you then?
MURTAGH: I was nine, about six-months older than the Senator.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was your father's occupation?
MURTAGH: My dad at the time was a New York state trial court judge here in Manhattan.
VAN SUSTEREN: Those two questions are very relevant. Tell us now, what happened back in 1970.
MURTAGH: At the time, Greta, my father was the trial judge on a case called the "Panther 21." Members of the Black Panther Party were on trial for allegedly plotting to bomb a number of landmarks and department stores here in New York City. On February 21, 1970, at about 4:30 in the morning, William Ayers Weather Underground frankly launched an attack on about four different sites here in New York. They attacked two military recruiting installations in Brooklyn, the attacked a police institution in the lower Manhattan, and then they attacked my family home with us sleeping in our beds, with three separate bombs.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm going to ask you in a second why you think it was the Weather Underground, because the trial was for the Panthers 21. But I want to have you describe a little more--what happened?
MURTAGH: I was sound asleep in bed, our entire family was sound asleep. Two bombs were detonated in the front of the house. The third bomb, today, 38 years later, we call it a car bomb. They placed an explosive device under the gas tank of the family car near the back door in the garage. The first thing I remember is waking up, no doubt from the sound, my mother coming into the room, pulling me out of bed. I remember standing in the kitchen with my mother and my family. We could see flames to the window.
But, quite frankly, my parents did not know whether to leave the house or not because we did not know what was outside. We were stuck in a burning house, but did not know if it was safe to leave.
VAN SUSTEREN: I take it that was in those old days, when people had their address in the phone books, even judges, right?
MURTAGH: I guess so.
VAN SUSTEREN: You think it's the Weather Underground, but the Panther 21 was the trail your father was father was actually trying at the time. How do you connect those two?
MURTAGH: Quite simply because over the years that is who has been credited with the attack. They threatened additional bombing is to come. Every history of the Weather Underground since that time documents the fact that the assault on our home and our family, the attempt on our life, was by the Weather Underground.
VAN SUSTEREN: It changed your life?
MURTAGH: Clearly. At the age of nine, for anybody to experience that sort of thing, it is a life changing experience. And the Weather Underground continued its attacks, as you documented, on the Pentagon, on the Capital, on any number of buildings.
Indeed, about a month after the attack on my family, they blew themselves up in a bomb making factory in Greenwich Village as they preparing bombs to attack a military installation in New Jersey.
VAN SUSTEREN: There were three members of the Weather Underground who died in that bomb incident?
MURTAGH: I believe that is right. They were packing dynamite and nails into bombs which exploded as they prepared the weapons.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did your father explained this to you?
MURTAGH: Crazy as it sounds, Greta, it became part of life. For a year-and-a-half after that we had around the clock police protection, we traveled everywhere with plainclothes detectives. That lasted the duration of the trial until August of 1971.
VAN SUSTEREN: I thought that there was some clue some graffiti ...
MURTAGH: The morning after it happened on the sidewalk was spray- painted graffiti that said "Free the Panther 21, the Viet Cong have won." And then someone also wrote "kill the pigs."
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if Bill Ayers was actually part of this. I know he was part of the Weather Underground and singed the actual document creating the Weather Underground.
MURTAGH: Bill Ayers founded the Weather Underground. His wife took credit for these attacks and these assaults. And as has been documented numerous times, 35 or 36 years later, in 2001, Bill Ayers continues to advocate violence as a means to a political ends.
VAN SUSTEREN: You take that from a "New York Times" interview which he has taken great issue with, saying he was taken out of context or misquoted, but one in which he basically said he did not discount the bombing of buildings, basically.
MURTAGH: In an interview ironically published in "The New York Times" on September 11, 2001, he is asked if the had expressed any regrets, for the bombings. And he had said his only regret was that he had not done more.
He went on to say when asked directly if he would rule out in the future, he said he could not rule it out in the future. This is a man who his entire life and up until this time advocates essentially revolution against this country.
The irony, Greta, if you think about it--think of a man like the Eric Rudolph, of the Atlantic Olympics bomber. He bombed an abortion clinic. He bombed a night club. Eric Rudolph is in jail today. Bill Ayers, who essentially did the same thing to the Pentagon and to the Capital and to military installations and to my family, is a tenured professor in Chicago and now an advisor to Barack Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: We are going to take a quick break; we will be right back with John in a moment.
And, later, a big celebrity goes "On the Record." You will hear from her all the way from China. Who is it? Stay tuned to find out.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)
VAN SUSTEREN: John Murtagh is still with us. We're discussing his family and his home which were bombed in February of 1970.
John, you and I have never spoken before, and so I have no idea what the answer to this question is. But all the viewers are going to wonder if you part of Senator Clinton's campaign in any way?
MURTAGH: I am not a member of Senator Clinton's campaign in any way. I am, frankly, a registered Republican. I hold office in Yonkers, New York, but I have no connection to any political campaign.
VAN SUSTEREN: Another thing that people will wonder is in 1995, Senator Obama had an organization meeting for his State Senate race in Illinois, and he also served on the board, as you noted, with Bill Ayers, and the organizational meeting was that Bill Ayers' house.
Do you find that important in this race?
MURTAGH: Greta, I do not hold Senator Obama responsible for what happened to my family four decades ago. But he has a relationship with Bill Ayers and with Bill Ayers wife and family that goes back 20 years or more.
Bernadine Dorn, Bill Ayer's wife, who took credit for the bombings in New York, was a coworker with Michelle Obama at the Chicago law firm where Barack Obama and Michelle Obama met.
Barack Obama, as you've pointed out, served on the board of the Wood Foundation for a number of years with Bill Ayers. He was the director of an organization called the Annenberg Challenge in Chicago, which if you look at Bill Ayers Resume on his web site he takes credit as one of the founders of that organization.
In addition, there is an organization called The Educational Leadership Organization in Chicago. Senator Obama served on that board with Bill Ayers brother and father.
I think what is trouble is that the Senator tries to dismiss this as though he were a neighbor down the block that did something 40 years ago. It is a working relationship and apparently has been a working relationship for close to two decades.
And, indeed, as you pointed out, Greta, Barack Obama launched his very first political campaign with a kick off party in their living room.
I think he has to answer how he can be associated, how he can choose as a mentor a man who engaged in a violence against this country and its institutions in and the '70s and who continues to advocate violence today.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of Bill Ayres, he was charged, but the charges were dropped. He was charged with some crimes, right?
MURTAGH: I believe he was. He was never convicted of a crime, but he clearly takes credit for a number of them.
As I understand it, the only jail time that his wife served was a full 10 years later when a splinter group of the Weathermen and a black liberation army conducted a bank robbery here in the suburbs of New York around 1981. They murdered a security guard at the bank and a police officer on the highway as they tried to escape.
Bernadine Dorn was apparently subpoenaed to testify in that case, although she hadn't participated in the robbery. She refused to testify, and the only jail time she served was for refusing to testify, about seven months.
It was sometime after that she went to work at the same law firm in Chicago as Michelle Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: If I had my options, I would love to interview Bill Ayers and ask about the 2001 interview, because he does take issue with that and said that it was taken out of context. In fact, he wrote a long letter to "The New York Times" and disavowed violence.
That would be my first interest. My second would be to ask Senator Obama about his relationship with him in greater depth. I think that that would be the fair and right thing to do.
MURTAGH: I do not want to be dismissive of Mr. Ayers and the crimes that he committed, and the, frankly, the atrocities that he committed and encouraged. But I am not that concerned with Bill Ayers. He is not going to try to be the next president of the United States.
But I think that Senator Obama owes the American people, frankly, an explanation of, as I said, how he chooses his advisers, how he chooses his mentors, and what it says about his belief system and his philosophy and the direction that he would purport to take this country.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess the reason why I'm interested in Bill Ayers is because if he was totally taken out of context and has atoned for his violent past 40 years ago, that is a lot different for me--although it was a terrible thing, don't get me wrong--than if he still thinks it and Senator Obama is still hanging out with him. It makes a difference to me.
MURTAGH: Certainly, Greta, I have seen no evidence, and I have looked at it a great deal--I have seen no evidence that Bill Ayers has ever atoned for what he did, for what he proclaimed, nor has his wife.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I just know that there was this dispute with "The New York Times." I did not know either. I think we are entitled to an explanation, and I think that Senator Obama should be given an opportunity to answer. But it certainly is a curious relationship indeed.
MURTAGH: Greta, he was given an opportunity at the debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago, and he dodged the ball.
VAN SUSTEREN: John, thank you, and I'm sure there is going to be a lot more on this. Thank you, John.
MURTAGH: Thank you.
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