Bill Ayers Says He 'Absolutely' Would Not Have Assassinated Secretary of Defense

By Susan Jones | October 14, 2013 | 10:36am EDT

Bill Ayers is seen during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. (AP Photo)

( - Bill Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground, a group that bombed its way into the headlines in the 1960s and 70s, says he never hurt or harmed anybody. "We destroyed property," he said.

Ayers went on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday to promote his new book, "Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident."

"If you could have assassinated the Secretary of Defense, would you have done it?" Ayers was asked during the friendly interview.

"Absolutely not," said Ayers, who bombed the Pentagon in 1972.

"Why not?"

"Well, because we had made a decision early on that while we were willing to engage in extreme tactics, we were not going to harm human life. And we never did. Three of our own people died in the beginning of the Weather Underground, and that's an unbearable grief that goes on and on. But that was it. We never hurt or harmed anyone. We destroyed property."

Three members of the Weather Underground died in 1970, where a bomb being assembled in a Greenwich Village house exploded.  In his book "Fugitive Days," Ayers says he took part in the bombings of New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.

Ayres told MSNBC he still won't say he's sorry for what he did -- but then  he said he might say he's sorry if others join him in the exercise:

"As we come upon the 50th anniversary of that war, wouldn't it be great to assemble everyone from Henry Kissinger, to John Kerry to Bob Kerrey to me to Angela Davis to Bernadine Dohrn and Jane Fonda -- have us all say what we did and what we regret. If we all did it together and everyone took responsibility for what they did, in that company, I would be fine saying what I'm sorry about."

Ayers said the country still hasn't come to terms with "the truth about Vietnam." He said his actions were "in opposition to a genocidal war."

Ayres called it "political nonsense" for him to be demonized in 2008 presidential campaign because of his connection to Barack Obama. Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn once hosted a coffee for Obama as he launched his political career in Chicago.

"2008 -- not only did I emerge as kind of a notorious character, but the Weather Underground was reborn, more frightening and more terrifying and more vivid than it ever was in life. So I  think that was part of the political nonsense that was going on -- of not only trying to demonize a few characters like you know, Jeremiah Wright, Rashid Khalidi, and Bernadine Dorhn, but it was really an attempt to create this guilt by association. And that is a deadly stream in American politics. Because Obama knew a wide range of people, he should somehow be held accountable for their politics? Absolutely not. So I think that was a dishonest narrative."

Ayers praised Obama for saying that Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn't have supported any of the candidates, but would have been in the streets building a movement for justice.

"And that tells me wat I should be doing," Ayres said. "I think, for those of us who don't live in the White House or don't wander around the halls of Congress, we  have work to do nonetheless. And the power of the street, the community, the classroom, and the workplace, that's where we ought to be organizing and mobilizing."

Ayers is a retired education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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