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Bill Ayers, the controversial figure who some have labeled a domestic terrorist for his anti-Vietnam War activities, is slated to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Wisconsin Book Festival.

“We all came to the decision that this is an interesting event and interesting for the festival to bring him in again,” says Conor Moran, the festival's coordinator.

Moran was hired by the Madison Public Library Foundation, which has taken over the event because the Wisconsin Humanities Council, after running it for 11 years, decided to end its involvement. 

Ayers first appeared at the festival in 2009 on the heels of a GOP smear campaign associating then-presidential candidate Barack Obama with Ayer’s radical past, which included taking part in the bombings of the New York City Police Department, the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon as a key member of the radical group the Weather Underground. Republican presidential candidate John McCain frequently made Ayers an issue in campaign speeches and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused the future president of "pallin’ around with terrorists."

Allegations of his close ties to Obama have since been debunked and Ayers himself has accused President Obama of war crimes for the military's use of drone warfare.

Ayers is also a nationally known expert on education and formerly a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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During his 2009 appearance at the book festival Ayers talked about the new edition of his 2001 book Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist. This time he’ll be talking about his new book Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident, about living in the public eye since emerging from his life on the run, according to Moran. The book is scheduled for release a week before the festival, which is slated for Oct. 17 to 20.

Among those appearing at the festival will be Stephen Jimenez, whose book The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard takes an in-depth look at the murder of the gay Wyoming college student who was beaten to death in 1998 and the social fallout since then. That book is scheduled for release in September.

Moran says the full schedule will be released in about three weeks.

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.