Exclusive: Bill Ayers, Dinesh D'Souza debate American values

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," July 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: First, though, the final part of our exclusive interview with the domestic terrorist turned college professor who helped launched the political career of our current president.

In 2008, Professor Bill Ayers was introduced to America as the founder of the violent radical group the Weather Underground. That introduction came when it was discovered that Ayers, a man who hid from the FBI for a decade helped launch the political career of a young Chicago politician by the name of Barack Obama, a man who was seeking the Oval Office. So how exactly did that happen? And what are we to make of that? We'll get to that. But first, you need to know how Ayers came to talk with us. That happened when he agreed to join filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza right here on this set for a special we will air in full this Fourth of July at 9:00 p.m. Eastern in a debate about America. Watch.


KELLY: Let's start with that, whether America is a force for good. Dinesh says in the movie, Professor Ayers, that one side, his side believes America is exceptionally good and the other believes it's exceptionally bad.


KELLY: Is that you? Is that your side?

AYERS: I don't believe there's two sides. But I have a very different view, I think that America plays a role that's supposed to be good and bad in the world that there's a tradition in America that I strongly support and it's the tradition of dissidence, it's the tradition of radicals, it's the tradition of revolutionaries, so you can see from the beginning, the first Bill of Rights was the push from below, the abolitionist movement was the push from below, the women's movement, suffrage. These are things that I think are great in the American tradition and it shows us something important which is that people can affect the outcome of national policy, they can become a force for good and that to me is one of the great things about America.

KELLY: No matter the means necessary?

AYERS: It depends, no, of course the means matter. But, so you're digging into that --

KELLY: Where ever could I be going?

AYERS: Where could you be going? No, of course the means matter, but the point is, that if you look back in history, and you say, who are the people that we remember for all the great things they did? Even if you take, say, Lyndon Johnson, Abraham Lincoln. Lyndon Johnson was never part of the Black Freedom Movement. He responded to a Black Freedom Movement on the ground. And same with Abraham Lincoln, he never belong to an abolitionist party, he was responding to force from below.

So, do I think Harriet Tubman did good things? I do. Was she carrying a pistol in her pockets? She was. Did John Brown do the right thing by hurling his entire life and his family against slavery? He did. And those are the people I have looked to.

KELLY: It's interesting, you chose to name two presidents to start off with, who are, you know, our commanders-in-chief, who signed bills into law and abide by, not in all circumstances, but are expected to abide by the rule of law, something that you have often flouted.

AYERS: Both of these presidents were actually responding to movements that didn't always abide by the rule of law. I mean, the civil rights movement, the Black Freedom movement, broke the law consistently and that was part of the strength and beauty of it. And the Black Freedom movement grew and evolved every minute, every day. The kind of story we tell about it today is mostly a myth and mostly not true, but the push for justice, the push for equality, the push for participation, was something that was magnificent. And that was coming from below and much of it was against the law. Lincoln was responding --

KELLY: One of that Dinesh, revolution.

DINESH D'SOUZA, FILMMAKER: Well, we happen to be in a revolutionary nation where America began with the revolution. And I would call it the spirit of 1776 was a revolutionary spirit. So, the American founders far from being status quo guys, broke the law themselves, the law of the British crown and established a revolutionary country based upon principles of equality, based upon principles of Christianity and principles of commerce.

Now, if you look at the reforms movements in America, John Brown, for example was powerfully motivated by Christianity. The abolitionist movement if impossible if it wasn't for Christianity. Martin Luther King says, I'm submitting a promissory note. Who wrote a promissory note? Not the southern segregationists, it was Thomas Jefferson. So a Virginia slave holder wrote the charter that Martin Luther King relied on 200 years later to have a civil rights movement in the first place. So, the point is that you couldn't have radicalism, the radicalism itself is parasitic upon the principles of 1776.

KELLY: What do you make -- you say the terrorists who bombed the Pentagon in our past thought they were doing good because America was bad. And you turned out to be referring not to the 911 Al Qaeda terrorists but to Mr. Ayers, Professor Ayers group, the Weather Underground. And this goes back to the means, you know, that you get in your head that America is bad, it needs to be changed and you pursue any means necessary to evoke that change. Dinesh equates you to actual terrorists who bombed us on 9/11.

AYERS: Even Dinesh's response to you, he pointed out that the American Revolution was violent and it was illegal. So you're not always against illegal violence, you're only against it when you think it's against the things you believe in.

But the reality is we were never terrorists and Dinesh does call our group terrorists and that's not true. Because terrorism, even if you take Webster's definition, is force and coercion intended to spread fear and panic to make your point. And it often involves killing civilians. We never killed anyone, we did noisy, loud, very open destruction of property at a time when 6,000 people a week were being murdered by our government. Six thousand a week.

KELLY: That's what you were objecting to?

AYERS: Objecting?

KELLY: We'll get to that, we'll get to that Weather Underground in our separate segment. So, I just want our viewers know we're going to talk about that in separate segment. But that's what Professor Ayers believes, that as many other radicals in our country's history, he believed that the ends did justify the means. And that if you want to change the things about America to which you object and you try to a peaceful means and you do not get anywhere, then what recourse do you have but to push the envelope, and in some circumstances break the law.

D'SOUZA: Well, first of all, there was a big difference between let's say, Martin Luther King breaking the law and Bill Ayers breaking the law, because Martin Luther King broke the law nonviolently. Martin Luther King's point was, if I break the law, I should accept the penalty for breaking the law. I shouldn't go hiding from the law. I should go to prison because the law is unjust. So, I'm going to call the law into question morally and try to sway to American people because I believe in the goodness of the American people.

If you look at the rhetoric, Bill Ayers represents how we would call the spirit of 1968. And this was the radical spirit that saw America as a force for evil, saw Vietnam as a metaphor, for how bad America was, and then went right back into American history and reinterpreted American history as a series of crimes visited upon different -- the Native-Americans, the African-Americans, the Mexicans. So this became a kind of anti-Americanism that was fostered in America and it became pervasive in our schools, our colleges, it's now part of the media, so our culture has been shaped by this.

KELLY: Do you admit that?

AYERS: No, I think it's interesting. First of all, both of you are acting like the ends justify the means is absolutely from Mars, but when your ends are in question like invading Iraq, you're all for it, you're all in. And that's a violent end.

But on this question of the spirit of '68, we went back and we interpreted history and you act as if the reinterpretation of history was some kind of fiction. We did commit genocide against the Native Americans.

D'SOUZA: Actually, we didn't.

AYERS: And we did enslave people for 250 years. And the question, could you be a moral person and own slaves, I think is something that you dodge. And so what I would say is, look, what I would say is, you need to look at the thing honestly and don't be so afraid of the fact that we did terrible, terrible things in our history, and in order to get right with the world, we have to repair those history --

KELLY: Go ahead, Dinesh.

D'SOUZA: But we shouldn't flagellate ourselves for things that we didn't do. Let's for example --

AYERS: I don't flagellate at all. I don't even flagellation.

D'SOUZA: Let's look at genocide. The American Indian population shrank by 80 percent over 150 years. The main reason for that was not because of warfare or systematic killing, it's because the white man brought with him from Europe diseases to which the Native Americans -- hold on --


D'SOUZA: Did not have any immunities, and so they perished in large numbers. Now, the Europeans, one-third of the population in Europe a hundred years later -- earlier had been wiped out by the black plague, where did that come from? Asia. So with the migration of people, diseases go from civilization to civilization. That's not genocide. Genocide is when to intend to wipe out of people.

AYERS: They intended to wipe out the people and steal their land and they did both.

KELLY: Do you think there's a reflexive instinct in many on the left, or to the left of the left as I guess you are, to blame America first? I mean, I thought it was interesting in one of your books, the question was, who you think are great Americans, you know, what do you think is so great about America? And you named Edward Snowden and now Chelsea Manning, two people who people, you know, think are traitors.

AYERS: Well, some people think they're traitors. And I named Jeremy Hammond as well, another whistleblower. And what amused me, Jeremy Hammond is a Chicagoan, so was Daniel Ellsberg. But when the judge sentence Jeremy Hammond to 10 years in federal prison, she said, you're no Daniel Ellsberg. And I wanted to scream at the television, yes, and Daniel Ellsberg wasn't Daniel Ellsberg before he was Daniel Ellsberg, in other words he was also called treasonous. And it's only later that we catch up with the reality. Shouldn't we have a transparent government? Shouldn't we know what our government is doing? Should we allow them to just close the door and act with impunity? That's what we're doing. Snowden stopped that.

KELLY: Just about a week ago, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that only 40 percent of those who identify as quote, "solid liberals" describe themselves as proud to be American, compared to the roughly 70 percent of those who describe themselves as conservatives.

Why do you think it is so few liberals say they are proud to be American?

AYERS: I have no idea.

KELLY: Are you?

AYERS: I'm not a liberal, if that's what you mean.

KELLY: Are you proud to be American?

AYERS: I'm not proud to be an American and I don't buy the American exceptionalism at all. And the reason I'm not proud to be an American is because of the damage that we do around the world is so serious and so ongoing. So if you look anywhere in the world, look all through Latin America, ordinary people on the street admired Cuba for one reason, they stood up to America. They stood up to, you know, kind of imperial advances.

KELLY: We stood up to some people too. Germany.

AYERS: I understand and that was us at our best. And after 9/11 --

KELLY: So, why do you go right to the bad? Why don't you think about the good when you think about what America is?

AYERS: I do often think about the good, but I wouldn't call myself an American exceptionalist and I would challenge that in anybody, because I'm a human being, I believe we should be struggling with the question, what does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? What is it that's required of us? We are all human. America is five percent of the world's population, we should think of ourselves as a people among people, not as an exceptional people. Because as soon as you start saying American exceptionalism, then you say actions that are done by us versus other people are different depending on who does them.

KELLY: Dinesh, that's not an unusual attitude among --

D'SOUZA: Right. Exceptionalism doesn't mean a different moral standard applies. By and large foreigners who come to America, going all the way back to Toekville (ph) -- I've grown up in a different culture. I know America's exception because I see things in America that you wouldn't see anywhere else in the world.

Right now, if you took the power that America has as the world's sole superpower and you gave it to Russia, or you gave it to China, they would use it far more expansively, more brutally and more to gain themselves. America is benign in the way it exercises its power. The American idea of wealth creation is being embraced in India, in China, all over the world. It's lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

So ironically, this American formula that we are moving away from at home under Obama is being enthusiastically embraced all around the world.

AYERS: We're benign in Iraq for example. You say, we use our power benevolently in Iraq, for example, or Afghanistan -- those are benign uses of power.

D'SOUZA: OK. We went into Afghanistan because the Taliban supplied monkey bars to the guys from 9/11 who attacked us directly.

AYERS: Why didn't we go and get the guys who attacked us directly instead of overthrowing government. And now --


Which incidentally, the entire history of the last 50 years of American foreign policy is we go in under the guise of being the beneficent and benign and we go in under the lies of one president after another and then we get booted out, and what do we do? We blame the brown guys. So, it's Al-Maliki and I hope Al-Maliki has read his history of Vietnam and sees what happened to Diem (ph) --

KELLY: Do you think we're blaming Al-Maliki for the mess in Iraq because he's brown? Is that what you think?

AYERS: There's no question the United States is -- I think that we always blame our clients, that's what I'm saying.

KELLY: That's a generalization. Do you think we're blaming Al-Maliki for the mess in Iraq because he's brown?

AYERS: I think we blame our clients, and our clients happen to be brown. So, Diem, I hope Al-Maliki has read about Vietnam. Diem got a bullet in the head from Kennedy. Because he had failed in Vietnam, we didn't failed, we were perfect. And the same is true in --

D'SOUZA: America has made mistakes. Has made mistakes in Vietnam, the Iraq war, in retrospect -- hold on a minute. In retrospect, the Iraq war was a mistake.

But there's a difference between making a mistake and doing something that is inherently wicked. Let me tell you what I mean by this. Anyone else who went into Iraq and did this would have reimbursed itself by taking the Iraqi oil. Right? Instead, we have spent all this money in Iraq, and then we have turned over the keys of the oil fields to the Iraqis, we say it's your oil, use it, sell it, burn it. So, Iraq ends up costing us money, imperialists normally go abroad to make money.

AYERS: No, no, no, you're absolutely mistaken. So, you're saying that the oil is just there and Iraq is just using it the way they see fit and Shell has nothing to do with it, and mobile has nothing to do with it. Standard has nothing --

D'SOUZA: On the balance, America made money and lost money on Iraq.

AYERS: On balance, people like Halliburton made gazillions of money.

KELLY: That's not responsive. America.

AYERS: Absolutely. America on balance lost and that's --

D'SOUZA: OK. Let me ask you this. At the end of the cold war, all of Eastern Europe is free, Russia now no longer has a communist government. Are all those countries better off or worse off because we won the cold war?

AYERS: I don't think we won the cold war. I think you're dreaming about that.

D'SOUZA: Was that a good thing?

AYERS: Well, I think the end of authoritarian governments is always a good thing. But I also think that this notion that somehow we go out in our beneficence, spend a trillion dollars a year on military budgets, have 150 military bases circling the globe. Those are not for beneficent purposes. Those are for imperial purposes.

KELLY: I've got to leave it at that.


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