Exclusive: Bill Ayers on life after Weather Underground

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," July 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MEGYN KELLY, HOST (voice-over): It was in his living room that a then unknown Barack Obama launched his political career. A domestic terrorist who avoided real jail time and isn't sorry for bombing America. Bill Ayers, co-founder of the radical Weather Underground admits his group bombed 20 targets, including the Pentagon, the U.S. Capital and the State Department, all to protest the Vietnam War and other left wing causes of the '70s. His wife Bernardine Dohrn was a fully committed participant. A woman who was said to have praised Charles Manson and who wound up on the FBI's most wanted list.


BERNARDINE DOHRN, WEATHER UNDERGROUND: Now they're everywhere, and next week, families and tribes will attack the enemy around the country. We are not just attacking targets, we are bringing the pitiful helpless giant to its knees.


KELLY: The bombs mostly caused major property damaged, but Ayers and his cohorts would up the violent rhetoric and eventually the group turned murderous.


BRIAN FLANAGAN, FORMER WEATHER UNDERGROUND MEMBER: What we wanted do here was deliver the most horrific hits that the United States government had ever suffered on its territory. We wanted to light it up. Our slogan was bring the war home. And we really wanted to give the United States and the rest of the world a sense that this country was going to be completely unlivable if the United States continued in Vietnam.


KELLY: In 1970, three of Ayers' comrades prepared a nail bomb intended to execute military families at a dance in New Jersey. But the explosives went off prematurely, and Ayers' friends were killed in the blast.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: These Weatherman people were actually randomly bombing and intended to kill people. At that point pressure came all the way from the White House to catch these people. It was very, very high pressure.


KELLY: By 1981 their former Weatherman colleagues were at it again. This time robbing a Brink trunks and killing two police officers and the security guard in the process. Their goal -- to steal more than $1 million all in the name of redistributing wealth.

Ayers and Dohrn remain close to the killers to this day and refused to help prosecutors investigate the crime. Ayers and Dohrn might also be in jail today but the FBI broke the law in pursuing them, and in the end no case was brought.

When Ayers became a household name during Barack Obama's presidential run, the now college professor kept his silence for a time. And six years later, he walked into the Fox News Headquarters and sat down exclusively with "The Kelly File." Part one of our shocking interview aired on the show last night.


KELLY: How many bombings are you responsible for?

BILL AYERS, CO-FOUNDER, RADICAL GROUP WEATHER UNDERGROUND: The Weather Underground I think took credit for just slightly over 20.

KELLY: You and your group were calling for more violence, what we saw in February of 1970, February 16th was San Francisco police officer Brian McDonnell, a 44-year-old father of two and husband, was killed when a bomb went off at his police station and eight other police officers were injured in that blast. Now, your wife Bernardine Dohrn has been accused of that crime. Do you deny it?

AYERS: Absolutely deny it. Absolutely nothing to do with it.

KELLY: Bernardine Dohrn was not a fan of the police and referred to them typically as pigs.

AYERS: Well, that was again the inflated rhetoric of the time.

KELLY: Five days after that San Francisco bombing that took the life of Officer Brian McDonald, the Weather Underground bombed John Murtagh's home. John Murtagh is --

AYERS: That's also not true.

KELLY: It's not true?

AYERS: No, it's not true.

KELLY: In your book with Bernardine, you quote, "the Weather Underground communique," you say as follows and I'm quoting now, "Two weeks before the townhouse explosion," which is a different bomb, "four members of this group had firebombed Judge Murtagh's house in New York as an action to support the Panther 21, whose trial was just beginning.

AYERS: I didn't write that.

KELLY: It's in your book.

AYERS: Which book?

KELLY: It's your book with Bernadine. It's on the board right there, it's from one of your communiques.

You guys got to the point where you considered murder. And you acknowledged that yourself, it got to the point where this property damage wasn't good enough for you, and you decided on mass murder, planning to bomb a military dance.

What I want to understand Professor is that, what began for your group as outrage over mass killings, then turned into a plan to kill hundreds of Americans. Did you not see the moral high ground?

AYERS: Oh, absolutely, that was true for a few people, and it's one of the things we split on.

But the idea that this is somehow this is the moral equivalent of 6,000 people a week being killed strikes me as nuts. We were destroying property, and in the course of discussions, some people thought we should go much further. But we didn't.

KELLY: Your critics say, when you make that argument, you sound like Adolph Hitler.

Do you appreciate the recklessness of that?

AYERS: I don't say it wasn't reckless.

KELLY: Who are you to potentially endanger the lives of those individuals who may have been in or around those building?

AYERS: I don't say it wasn't reckless and I don't say it wasn't illegal. It was illegal. We crossed lines of legality.

KELLY: It's not about legality, it's so much bigger better than that.


KELLY: And now tonight, part two of our interview. The Brinks murders, the Obama friendship, and whether Ayers will bomb America again.



KELLY: In 1980, you and Bernadine Dohrn resurfaced, and when she turned herself in, Bernardine Dohrn promised to spend her energy organizing to defeat the American empire.

AYERS: Good for her, great.

KELLY: You say that you had resolved by that point not to hurt anybody, but your comrades did not apparently get the let's be more peaceful memo. I say this because Kathy Wilkerson, she was a member of the Weather Underground, correct?

AYERS: She was with us underground but --

KELLY: Right. She wrote after the fact, and I quote, "The process by which Weather leaders changed from the language of glorifying violence in January 1970 to moderation was invisible to almost all weather members. Certainly the assumption of most was a plan to build a clandestine fighting force was full steam ahead. If, as Ayers says, things were different in the west, most participants did not know this."

What did you do to communicate to the people in your group, no more violence.

AYERS: I don't agree with Kathy, and so I don't know what to say about it, I mean, we were a loose organization, we were not a disciplined organization, but we changed dramatically in 1970, there's no question.

KELLY: But do you take responsibility --I read the communique, which said, you bombed the Murtagh house.

AYERS: Well, there are many communiques, including after the townhouse explaining --

KELLY: Not the townhouse, it says you bombed the Murtagh house --

AYERS: -- yes.

KELLY: Do you take responsibility for riling people up with your incendiary rhetoric and then setting them upon the American public with a commitment to violence?

AYERS: No, no, no, we did not set ourselves upon the American public. Where did we set ourselves upon the American public?

KELLY: You were calling for more violence. You were riling your own people up. Kathy Wilkerson is talking about how if there was some decision not to get more peaceful, it was not communicated to the troops. You were the leadership.

AYERS: The people who riled up the response that they got over the five years in the early 1970s, was the government itself, riling us up through genocidal murder.

KELLY: So, it wasn't Bill Ayers?

AYERS: No, I absolutely thought that we should do more, we should be more effective, and have a lot of criticism --

KELLY: And that adds to more violence.

AYERS: It didn't always mean more violence.

KELLY: But it did sometimes?

AYERS: No, you're using violence in a conflated way. No, it did mean the destruction of property.

KELLY: You want these 20-year-olds to understand your nuance principles of I meant militancy, I didn't mean -- I want to bomb property, but I don't want to kill people when I can thrust all these people to follow my index.

AYERS: Throughout the left at that time, the Catholic left, the Barrigans, people were destroying property again and again and again. And it was a good thing, we should have destroyed more property.

KELLY: I'm talking about you.

AYERS: I'm saying --

KELLY: When other people do bad things, we hold them accountable.

AYERS: I understand.

KELLY: Today I have you at the table.

AYERS: I understand, and I'm saying we should have done more to stop that genocidal war, and that included destroying more properties, absolutely.

KELLY: So, your argument in response to my question is about what you did to tamp down the violence was, we should have done more to amp it up?

AYERS: We should have done more to stop the war, and that means being more effective on every level, including destroying more draft boards, destroying more draft files, hammering on nuclear warheads. We did all of that.

KELLY: I feel that the audience now has a feeling for where you were at this point in your mind. But -- this is when you resurfaced from being underground. And within a year of that, October 20th, 1981, was a triple homicide. David Gilbert of the Weather Underground, Kathy Boudin, Weather Underground, and Judy Clark, Weather Underground, partnered with the Black Liberation Army. They killed two cops. Edward O'Grady and Wavily Brown along with the security guard named Peter Paige. You were very close with Gilbert and Boudin.

AYERS: Still am.

KELLY: I know it. Kathy Boudin learned that some of her very criminal tactics while she was with Weather Underground, she was in the townhouse that exploded when that bombed went off, wasn't she?

AYERS: That's true.

KELLY: You adopted her child because she and her husband were going to jail.

AYERS: That's absolutely right. KELLY: He's still in jail of life sentence for murdering two cops and a security guard.

AYERS: -- biological father, that's right.

KELLY: Right. And she got out after 20 years because she pleaded guilty, there's no question she did it.

AYERS: She pled guilty, absolutely.

KELLY: Right.

AYERS: And she paid her price for that, and it was a terrible dreadful, mis-calibrated horrible action, and they paid the price.

KELLY: So, you don't see her as valiant too.

AYERS: I don't think what they did was valiant. She's a wonderful person, but no, I don't think --

KELLY: And you don't think that what they did had anything to do with what they learned or heard while on the Weather Underground?

AYERS: Absolutely not, it was a different time and a different moment.

KELLY: Another thing you had nothing to do with?

AYERS: Absolutely not, but we did have to do with adopting their son and raising him to the wonderful person he is today, that was part of what we did, yes.

KELLY: And your wife, Bernadine Dohrn was asked to cooperate in that investigation?

AYERS: That's right.

KELLY: She refused.

AYERS: Absolutely.

KELLY: She spent seven months in jail because she refused to help the police --

AYERS: Well, she refused to speak to a grand jury. That's quite different.

KELLY: Why would she do that, sir?

AYERS: Why would she do that? Because a grand jury is a star chamber that takes you behind closed doors without the benefit of a lawyer, and ask you to speak to --

KELLY: What does she have to hide?

AYERS: Now, wait, if they pulled you in and said, Megyn we want to talk to you about a bunch of stuff, Bill O'Reilly mainly, if you don't have anything to hide, please tell us everything --

KELLY: You know what I would say Professor Ayers?

AYERS: You say, no way?

KELLY: You know what I would say? Two cops are dead and so is a security guard, and I will help the government put whoever did it behind bars.

AYERS: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

KELLY: Yes, I would sir.

AYERS: No. But that's not what they said, they said, we're not going to show you the evidence, we're not going to say whether you're a target of this. All we're going to do is ask you a bunch of questions and --

KELLY: Professor Ayers, nine children lost their fathers that day.

AYERS: I agree with you.

KELLY: Why didn't your wife help?

AYERS: I agree with you, I think it was a terrible, terrible crime. That's not what we're disagreeing about. Grand juries are a terrible overreach of the U.S. government. Terrible. And they should be resisted. And everybody who thinks about it has resisted them. I mean, they were used against Monica Lewinsky, they were used against, you know, many, many people. And they should be resisted.

KELLY: They're part of our justice system. The question is whether your wife Bernardine Dohrn felt that she did in 1970, when she seemed perfectly fine with murder.

She said about the Charles Manson murders, of a pregnant woman and six others --

AYERS: This is not true.

KELLY: -- quote, "Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weatherman dig Charles Manson." This is your sweetheart? This is your soul mate?

AYERS: No, no, no. This is nonsense. And this is something again that gets re-circulated --

KELLY: You deny she said it?

AYERS: Absolutely. What she said, was American culture is so obsessed with the craziness, and it still goes on today.

KELLY: That's not how the New York Times reported it, the New York Times reported it exactly as I put on the board. Did they lie to?

AYERS: The New York Times, they lie daily, are you kidding?

KELLY: So, they lied.

AYERS: Don't they Dinesh, seriously?

KELLY: And communiques lied. I mean, it's a long list of people who have told terrible lies about the Weather Underground.

AYERS: I'm completely candid about the Weather Underground, you can read it in any of my books.

KELLY: Somewhat candid. I don't know about --

AYERS: It's not true, you don't certainly don't believe that the New York Times gets things right every time.

KELLY: Why? Even Kathy Wilkinson admitted that Bernardine Dohrn made this speech about Charles Manson and how much the Weather Underground dig him.

AYERS: That is not true. What she said was, here we are in a genocidal war, here we are murdering Black Panthers, and what is the news media focused on? This crazy guy who, you know, stuck a fork in somebody, and she was mocking it, and it was reported as if she was supporting him. She doesn't support it, but it doesn't matter, there's an endless echo chamber that you help perpetuate.

KELLY: Is it true that the Weather Underground had a serious discussion before it went underground about whether they should kill all white babies?


KELLY: As a University of Arizona professor claims, here he is.


DOUG MCADAM: I remember going to the last above ground Weather -- it was the Weatherman or the Weather Underground, the last above ground convention. And sitting in a room, and the question that was debated was, was it -- was it or was it not the duty of every good revolutionary to kill all newborn white babies?


KELLY: Because they would ultimately join the revolution?

AYERS: It's absolutely nuts. There's no truth to it, and so it's hard to kind of have a conversation with you --

KELLY: I'm just asking, I don't know whether that man's telling the truth or not.

AYERS: There's no truth to it.



KELLY: When you became a parent, did it soften you at all, to the reality of what you had done, potentially endangering other people's parents and children.

AYERS: It was the best thing that ever happened to me, becoming a parent. Did it soften me, I don't know what that means. But, you know, it's the best thing I've ever done is to raise three remarkable young men.

KELLY: Ultimately you wound up in Chicago, you got a job teaching with the University of Illinois. Do you see any irony in accepting government paycheck and winding up --

AYERS: Absolutely not, what's the irony? Explain it to me.

KELLY: And the life opposing the government regime, wanting to throw down the government as you put it.

AYERS: Well, look, we live in the actual world. So, even the things we're critical of, I mean, this is the world we live in, should I not make a living? Should I not, I mean, let me ask you --

KELLY: No, it's fine. You know, your wife miraculously got a job teaching at Northwestern.

AYERS: And very successfully, absolutely.

KELLY: That's amazing. They must be offering classes in what you can learn from your future clients. But are you surprised that you got those job offers, you and she?

AYERS: Not really.

KELLY: She was on the FBI's ten most wanted list?

AYERS: I know, so was Angela Davis, and you know, a lot of great people have been on that list. But -- and Angela Davis is also a professor. But the great thing, no, the thing is that I got my doctorate when I was 43 years old, I interviewed at several universities, the best offer I got was at the University of Illinois, I took it. We moved to Chicago with our three kids. She started a center for children and families, and eventually, Northwestern Law School wanted to be a part of that.

KELLY: (INAUDIBLE) Well, many members of the Weather Underground are now in academia. President Obama, let me ask you this, how much ideology did the two of you share?

AYERS: Zero.

KELLY: Good friends, not good friends?

AYERS: I knew him as well as he knew 10,000 other people, and today I wish I knew him much better, and I wish he had listened to me.

KELLY: Did he ever contact you once you became the story in his presidential race?

AYERS: Absolutely not. And I didn't contact him.

KELLY: The entire time he's been president, you haven't been in contact --

AYERS: Never. No. Although I wish I were, because I have a lot of advice for him.

KELLY: You want him to go further to the left.

AYERS: Oh, I want him to stop droning people. I want him to close Guantanamo, I want him to, you know, universal health care. Don't you think we deserve universal health care? Seriously. Medicare for all.

KELLY: You say in your book that you can't quite imagine putting a bomb in a building today, but you can't imagine entirely dismissing that possibility either. What would it take to make you bomb this country again?

AYERS: Well, you know, you're staking that sentence saying in a funny way. But what I'm saying is, it seems so long ago, what I'm saying in that passage is, it seems so long ago and so far away, like another world. On the other hand, as violent and nuts as we can be as a country, I can't completely say no, I would never ever rise up in opposition in a very militant and serious way. I can't say I wouldn't. I doubt it, I'm 70 years old, so it's unlikely.

But I think, I want to say there exactly what Bernardine said on tape, which is, no, I'm not committed to nonviolence in ideology. And frankly, neither are you, because we live in the most violent society around, and we commit war crimes day in and day out, and often as a matter of policy, and yet that seems perfectly fine with you.

KELLY: Bill Ayers, thank you for being here.

AYERS: Thank you, Megyn.


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