While countering charges he was closely connected to a former domestic terrorist, Senator Barack Obama compared the former Weather Underground member William Ayers to a pro-life Senator who proposed considering the death penalty for abortionists, Cybercast News Service reports.
In Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate, Senator Barack Obama was pressed about his alleged connections with Ayers. George Stephanopoulos, ABC News political analyst and former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, asked the Illinois Senator about an early planning meeting for Obama’s 2001 campaign for a state legislature seat. The meeting was held at Ayers’ house.
Ayers had been a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that between 1970 and 1975 bombed the New York City Police Headquarters, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department, and other targets.
Though Ayers surrendered to authorities, he was never charged in the attacks and went on to become a university professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. In a September 11, 2001 edition of the New York Times, published before the day’s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Ayers was quoted as saying, “I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough.”
Obama’s opponent, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that Obama and Ayers were both members of the board of the philanthropic Woods Foundation. Clinton argued Obama’s connections made him less electable in the general election.
Senator Obama said he knows Ayers “as some guy in my neighborhood” and as a college professor, but said that it did not make sense to say that his mere knowledge of “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old” reflected on his character and his values.
Obama then compared Ayers to pro-life Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.
"The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those, either," Obama said.
According to Cybercast News Service, in July 2004 the Associated Press quoted then-Representative Tom Coburn as saying, "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."
A few days later, Coburn added, “My contention for the death penalty is, if you intentionally take innocent life, you ought to be open to the death penalty." According to the Oklahoman, Coburn continued, "Do I think abortionists should be put to death right now? No. You can't do it. [Abortion] is legal. I don't think it should be legal."
Coburn, a practicing physician, has said he has delivered more than 4,000 babies. On his web site, he says, "My experience as a physician has affirmed my conviction that all human life is sacred and that life begins at conception. I oppose abortion in all cases, with the lone and rare exception of when the life of the mother is endangered."