ABC News' Imtiaz Delawala Report: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defended her charge that Sen. Barack Obama has been "palling around with terrorists," and disputed a characterization by the Associated Press that her remarks connecting Obama to former 60's radical William Ayers were racially tinged.
"The comments are about an association that has been known but hasn't been talked about, and I think it’s fair to talk about where Barack Obama kicked off his political career, in the guy's living room," Palin said on the tarmac of the Long Beach, CA airport this morning.
At three events yesterday, Palin raised Obama's ties to Ayers, one of the founding members of the Weather Underground, a 60's radical group that took credit for bombing attacks around the country, including explosions set off at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in the early 1970's.
Obama has served on a charitable board with Ayers, who lives in the same Chicago neighborhood as Obama, and Ayers and his wife hosted a meet-and-greet in 1995 launching Obama's bid for his first term in the Illinois State Senate.
"This is not a man who sees America as you and I see America," Palin said of Obama to 13,000 supporters at a rally in Carson, CA yesterday afternoon. "We see America as a force for good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism. Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who target their own country."
In an analysis of Palin's comments, Associated Press writer Douglass Daniel wrote that while Palin "may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret."
Palin called the AP's characterization "wrong," saying Obama's ties to Ayers, given his known connection to the Weather Underground, are a legitimate point of criticism of the Democratic presidential nominee.
"And he of course, having been associated with that group, a known domestic terrorist group, it's important for Americans to know," Palin said of Ayers. "It's really important for Americans to start knowing who the real Barack Obama is."
The Obama campaign yesterday denounced the comments by Palin as "shameless" and "offensive," saying that Obama has never been close to Ayers, and that he has "strongly condemned the despicable acts Ayers committed 40 years ago, when Obama was eight" years old.
The McCain campaign has not raised the association between Obama and Ayers with great frequency since Obama became the Democratic nominee. Palin's comments on Ayers this weekend are part of a new strategy to raise questions about Obama's judgment and personal associations.
When asked at a debate in April to explain his relationship with Ayers to voters, and how he would "explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem," Obama dismissed the relationship, saying Ayers was "a guy who lives in my neighborhood" who was "not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."
"So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideas could be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarter than that," Obama said at the time. "They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't."