What price Ayers? An update

Last week in “What price Ayers?” we reported on the Illinois Humanities Council’s remarkable online fundraising auction item: dinner for six with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the unrepentant terrorists and former friends of Barack Obama. In search of funds, the IHC made the item available for immediate purchase for $2,500; at the time it had attracted one bid of $350. The IHC offered supporters the priceless opportunity to walk down memory lane with the celebrity couple over dinner, revisiting their life and crimes in the Weather Underground, or to ask the author of Fugititve Days to compare his memoir with Dreams From My Father by “Barack Obama.”

Well, Jack Cashill was a little slow off the mark, but the story may yet have a happy ending of some kind. Today’s Chicago Tribune brings the good news:

Conservative correspondent Tucker Carlson has bid on and won a dinner with controversial Vietnam-era radical Bill Ayers in a fundraiser for the Illinois Humanities Council, the group confirmed today.

As part of the auction item, Carlson, of Fox News and The Daily Caller, will have dinner with the former college professor who has written about helping with bombings at the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and other government sites.

There are no plans to record the dinner, which will include up to six people and cost Carlson $2,500, said Kristina Valaitis, executive director of the Humanities Council.

The dinner is among several items the council is offering as part of an anniversary fundraising auction. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, volunteered to cook a meal and offer conversation to help the council raise money, Valaitis said. Among the other items offered is the chance to attend a Chicago Cubs game with Dohrn, also a former Vietnam-era radical.

“We were very pleased that they would do that,” Valaitis said. “It’s wonderful when someone wants to make an in-kind contribution to support the work we do.”

The auction item was prominently displayed on the council’s website and upset some former members who did not support having such a polarizing figure raise money for the organization.

“Here’s a guy who is a terrorist, he’s blown up buildings,” said John Fascia, a former Humanities Council Board member who opposed offering the dinner with Ayers for the auction. “I think there was an error in judgment on this. … This is really off the deep end.”

Ayers is a retired University of Illinois-Chicago professor and co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group responsible for bombings in 1969 and the 1970s. Ayers has written extensively about his past and was denied emeritus status at UIC in part because he dedicated one of his books to a man convicted of the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

The Humanities Council is an educational nonprofit organization that organizes lectures, presentations, performances, exhibits and cultural events. The group is funded, in part, by state grants. In fiscal year 2011, the organization received $558,000 from the state to support its programs. In fiscal year 2010, the council received $507,300.

The Tribune article ends in the traditional journalistic style: “Ayers and Dohrn could not be reached for comment.” But come on, folks, it doesn’t take much imagination to fill in the blank.

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