Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers denied his anti-government domestic terror group ever injured anyone during the group's bombings in the early 1970s during a contentious interview with Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly that aired Monday night.
Kelly recorded the interview on Thursday and will air a second part of it on Tuesday.
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Ayers acknowledged that his group was involved in bombings at New York City police headquarters in 1970, the U.S. Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. But he denied any knowledge of attacks that injured or killed people.
He distanced himself from any acts of violence that resulted in more than "property damage," including the 1970 accidental detonation of nail-and-dynamite bombs that were intended to kill people at a military dance. The explosion at a Greenwich Village townhouse killed three Weather Underground members, including Ayers' girlfriend Diana Oughton.
Ayers told Kelly that there was disagreement within the group about increasing the violence against people and that he was on the side of sticking with property damage.
"Our rhetoric outstripped a lot of what was going on," Ayers said, pointing out that he was arrested multiple times at sit-ins and demonstrations, "all of it nonviolent."
The group became increasingly frustrated because lots of groups and individuals were opposing the Vietnam War, but nothing was stopping it.
"Then the question was, how do we stop it if it won't stop? And this was a crisis for democracy and a crisis for the anti-war movement," he said.
Ayers married former Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn, and the two became academics after they surrendered in 1980. The most serious charges against them had by that time been dropped.
Ayers told Kelly that the Weather Underground took responsibility for 20 bombings in a period when there were 20,000 bombings in the United States against the war. He refused to discuss his own role in any of the bombings.
"I've never talked about it and never will," he said.
Ayers called military deserters such as his own brother war heroes.
"We should build monuments to the unknown deserters, the people who look at the craziness that they're asked to participate in and say, I'm not part of this," he said.
But he called accusations by former Weather Underground members and supporters who say he or Dorhn was involved in killings "complete lies."
Challenged by Kelly that Dohrn called police "pigs" at the time and that she is said to have been involved in the killing of a police officer, Ayers said police today in Chicago, where he lives, continue to torture and force confessions from suspects.
Not all of them participate, he said, but all are guilty of the "conspiracy of silence."
"The police are a violent, out-of-control enterprise in Chicago today, shooting unarmed people," he said. But now he simply disagrees with them rather than use illegal tactics.
"Today, we hang out with them at the coffee shop," he said.
Ayers also denied the frequent charge that the Weather Underground bombed the home of a judge presiding over a Black Panther trial in the early 1970s.
Kelly challenged him, quoting from a book, "Sing a Battle Song," which he and Dohrn wrote, that admitted to the crime.
"I didn't write that," Ayers said.
"It's in your book," Kelly countered.
"It's not my communiqué. That was an autonomous group," Ayers responded.
The judge's son, John Murtagh, who was a child in the home at the time four firebombs were set off, told Kelly that Ayers sounded like the IRS.
"Anything bad that happened, it wasn't their fault; it happened in the branch office," Murtagh said. Murtagh said he would have more respect for Ayers if he would "man up" and say that his beliefs were that killing innocent people was the right thing to do to improve America.
Kelly said she debated whether she should give Ayers a platform, but felt he had never been confronted the way she confronted him.
Ayers told her it was OK to look at what Weather Underground did and question whether it was right, but added, quoting Fox News' tagline, "I think it would be fair and balanced to also look at the violence that was and is going on, perpetrated by the government, by the official agencies and organs of the government."
"You sound like Osama bin Laden," Kelly said.
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