This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In "The Obama Chronicles" segment tonight: There's no question Barack Obama's image has taken a hit over his association with radical college professor William Ayers.
In 1970, Ayers, along with his wife Bernadine Dohrn, were indicted for inciting a riot and conspiracy to bomb government buildings. Dohrn was convicted; Ayers was not.
However, Ayers remains unrepentant, telling The New York Times in 2001, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."
The question: Why was Barack Obama involved with William Ayers in the first place? Joining us now from Washington, Stanley Kurtz, a contributing editor at the National Review Online, who has been following the story for years.
There's a lot of misinformation, Mr. Kurtz, about this. I want to correct the record as much as we can tonight. I also want to tell the audience that the Obama campaign is angry at you for talking about this. So they don't like what you have to say about it, and I want to get both of those things on the record.
When did Barack Obama and William Ayers first come into contact? How did that happen?
STANLEY KURTZ, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Bill, we don't really know the answer to that question. The first time that we know they were in contact was in early 1995, because Bill Ayers created a foundation, an education foundation in Chicago called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. And Barack Obama became the chairman of the board of that foundation. That's the first time we know they were together.
And later that year there was the famous fund-raiser and kickoff for the campaign of Barack Obama in the home of Ayers and Dohrn. That was Obama's first political campaign. That was late 1995. But whether they knew each other before 1995, we don't know. And someone ought to really ask Senator Obama that question.
O'REILLY: I did, but I didn't get that micro, and we'll get into that for myself.
1995 was the first public record. Ayers founds this foundation. Obama is the chairman of the board. So that means that they had to have a lot of interaction, because the chairman of the board and the founder are going to speak. OK. So now they're there, and they're community activists together. All right. They're both trying to help poor people in Chicago. Would that be accurate?
KURTZ: Yes, and they are focusing on education at that early stage.
O'REILLY: OK. But their intent is not a malevolent intent. I have no use for this Ayers at all. I don't like him. I think he's a bad American. But at this point, what they were in business to do, both Ayers and Obama, was to get help for poor people in Chicago. That's correct, right?
KURTZ: Yes, and the way they wanted to do that was by helping out these community organizers. That's what they were really trying to support.
O'REILLY: OK. So they're there, and they have an association. And the association continues then from 1995 on. Were they ever in any way, shape, or form close? Did they work together on any legislation? I understand there was some kind of juvenile crime bill they were both involved with?
KURTZ: Well, that's right, Bill. In 1997 and 1998, there was a major battle in the Illinois state legislature over juvenile crime legislation. And Barack Obama and Bill Ayers really worked together to try to torpedo that juvenile crime bill, which most people, by the way, would have considered to be a very reasonable bill. And Bernadine Dohrn was also trying to torpedo that bill.
O'REILLY: Yes, it basically said that if you are a minor and you commit two violent felonies, convicted of two, you go to an adult felony prison. So you get one shot free, violent felony, but the second one you go to the big prison. No more coddling.
Both Ayers — and I got on Obama for this. I said it was a bad decision, and he said — now Barack Obama continues to say — he said it to my face — "Look, what this guy did was in the past. I was working with him in the community, trying to get things done that I believed in. Why would I care about what he did in the past?" And you respond?
KURTZ: Well, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn for that matter both believe that the work they do on education and on juvenile crime is the fulfillment of their early radicalism. They don't see it as turning away from that radicalism. That's one reason why they're helping these radical community organizers. That's one reason why they were opposed to a juvenile crime bill which even most liberals are — were very much in favor.
Dohrn and Ayers are on the far left of education and juvenile policy issues. And in those years in the '90s, Obama was basically allied with them.
O'REILLY: Are you holding it against Obama now that he was aligned with them then?
KURTZ: I definitely am, or at least it shows that he's on the very far left.
O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Kurtz, we appreciate that very much. Thank you.
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