Much of the recent commentary on 1960s radical William Ayers has included a quote from a 1994 book.
"I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Ayers said at the time.
It was quoted in a Wall Street Journal piece last month by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review and picked up by conservative bloggers as Republicans try to tie Ayers with Democrat Barack Obama. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."
The quote about Ayers came from the book "Sixties Radicals" by Rock Hill writer Ron Chepesiuk, a former Fulbright Fellow and Winthrop University faculty member.
Chepesiuk devoted a chapter to the one-time member of the Weather Underground. Its title was "Radical Educator." It talked about how Ayers had gone on to be a prominent educational adviser. He's taken part in programs at the University of South Carolina College of Education.
Chepesiuk, who interviewed Ayers at his home near the University of Chicago, doesn't defend Ayers' violent past, but believes the comments in his book have been taken out of context.
“It sounds like he’s an unrepentant domestic terrorist, that he’s still living the philosophy and mode of action of the '60s," he told me. "He’s left that all behind. He’s still a social radical. But it’s not a question of trying to violently overthrow the system. He’s trying to change the system from within."
Obama and Ayers were both involved in a 1990s education project called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Obama has denied any close association. Critics say he should not have associated at all with the former radical whose group took credit for several bombings.
"We're not talking about him running around with a domestic terrorist," Chepesiuk says. "We're talking about a respectable educator.”