In last week's column, I wrote that Sen. Obama had written a dusk jacket blurb for
ex-Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers' memoir, "Fugitive Days." This is not true.
Sen. Obama's praise was for an earlier book by Mr. Ayers, "A Kind and Just Parent,"
published in 1997.
I'm putting this correction at the beginning of this column rather than at the end
as is customary because I am mortified by my mistake, and I don't want it to become
a part of Internet lore. There is enough misinformation out there already.
On Oct. 11, veteran civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis compared John McCain and
Sarah Palin to segregationist George Wallace.
"What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in
American history," Mr. Lewis said. "George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never
fired a gun, but he created the climate and conditions that encouraged vicious
attacks against innocent Americans."
In the final presidential debate, Sen. McCain complained about what Rep. Lewis, an
Obama surrogate, said. Sen. Obama responded:
"(Lewis) was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your
running mate was holding, in which all of the Republican reports indicated were
shouting, when my name came up, things like 'terrorist' and 'kill him,' and that
your running mate didn't mention, didn't stop and say 'Hold on a second, that's kind
of out of line."
Sen. Obama was relying on news reports, so the error wasn't his. But what he said
The first journalist to write about this was Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank
Oct. 7. He was describing a Sarah Palin rally in Clearwater, Florida:
"'One of (Obama's) earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,' she said.
('Boo!' said the crowd.) 'And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic
terrorist and part of a group, that, quote, launched a campaign of bombings that
would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,' she continued. ('Booo!' the crowd
"'Kill him!' proposed one man in the audience."
It's pretty clear that the one man was referring to Bill Ayers, not Barack Obama.
That's what Mr. Milbank told the Webzine Politico when they asked him about it. But
here's how the Associated Press reported it in a dispatch Oct. 11:
"The Secret Service confirmed Friday that it had investigated an episode reported in
the Washington Post in which someone in Palin's crowd in Clearwater, Fla., shouted
'kill him," on Monday, meaning Obama."
Then when Gov. Palin spoke in Scranton Tuesday, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported:
"There were no incendiary outbursts about Mr. Obama during Mrs. Palin's speech, as
there have been during other recent McCain-Palin rallies."
"However, someone did shout 'Kill Him!' during Republican congressional candidate
Chris Hackett's remarks before Ms. Palin took the stage."
The story was picked up by ABC News, the AP and MSNBC. But the Times-Tribune
reporter apparently was the only person to hear the alleged threat, according to a
report Thursday in the rival Times-Leader newspaper.
"The agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Scranton said allegations
that someone yelled 'kill him' when presidential hopeful Barack Obama's name was
mentioned during Tuesday's Sarah Palin rally are unfounded," the Times-Leader said.
"Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number
of additional Secret Service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one
heard the comment," the Times-Leader said.
It isn't true that people at McCain-Palin rallies are making death threats against
Barack Obama. But the meme continues. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Andrew Greeley
"Sarah Palin...an All-American girl as racist, this time a racist with her eye on
the White House. She can stir up crowds to shout 'Kill Him!' at the mention of the
presidential candidate of the other party."