The short answer is: no, he’s making a joke.
With his final comment, the Ayers-friendly audience laughed in relief. The media will laugh nervously upon seeing the video as well. The White House will not.
Watch the clip yourself and see what you think of Ayers’ affect:
I think that at the very least the clip is interesting. Ayers is a highly intelligent and wily guy who likes to put things over on all of us. His statement about his legal status in an interview with David Horowitz in the early 80s, “Guilty as hell, free as a bird—America is a great country,” says a lot about his attitude towards guilt, innocence, admission of guilt and innocence, and joking.
Does his admission in the clip mean he really wrote Obama’s memoir? Of course not. But his behavior is certainly ambiguous. Note that the questioner does not bring up the topic of the questioned authorship—Ayers does, and we know the best defense is a good offense. Note also how quick Ayers is to praise Dreams—before the man finishes asking his question. And note how eager Ayers is to differentiate the supposedly excellent Dreams from Obama’s later hack work, The Audacity of Hope. Is he trying to disavow any connection with the latter?
Ayers’ delivery is deadpan. He smiles only at the end, after the audience has finally gotten that it’s a joke and laughed. Earlier, you can hear the original questioner’s surprised, “You wrote that?” in response to Ayers’ “joke,” which he doesn’t seem to get is a joke. That’s because Ayers’ deadpan demeanor is very convincing; he seems completely serious. Is that because he is, or is he just a comedian with great delivery?
And is Ayers’ smile at the end just a mockery of the silliness of those who would believe he wrote Obama’s book? Or a mockery of those who think he did not?