Ayres visit to FSU campus stirs controversy listen01/12/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday
Bill Ayers, the 1960s anti-Vietnam War activist, is scheduled to speak tonight at Florida State University, but his appearance is creating controversy.
State Rep. David Rivera, vice chairman of the Education Appropriations Committee, has condemned the invitation to Ayers, calling it "a disgrace." And members with the student organization College Republicans plan to protest.
Ayers is being paid $5,000 for the speech, which will be strictly about education reform, though he will take questions on any topic afterward. The bulk of the honorarium -- $4,000 -- is coming from the Institute for Liberal Studies, which is funded by the Student Government Association.
Ashley Findlay is the director of the Institute for Liberal Studies. She said she has been dismayed by the intensely negative reaction in some quarters to the Ayers event.
Ayers is a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, but he became famous last year after being branded a terrorist by John McCain and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail. Palin in particular accused Barack Obama as "pallin" around with Ayers because they lived in the same Chicago neighborhood and served together on a community board in the 1990s.
Obama condemned Ayers' illegal actions as a student radical almost 40 years ago, adding that they were never close friends.
Independent analysis has confirmed the two men never had much of a relationship.
Ayers told the Tallahassee Democrat that threats have been made against him.
John Formella from the College Republicans admits he knows nothing about Ayers's education policies, but questions how much the Institute for Liberal Studies cares about that part of Ayres, versus his radical past
Formella also questions the use of taxpayer money going to bringing the former member of the Weather Underground to Tallahasseee.
Ayers is scheduled to speak at 7 tonight on the FSU campus.