November 1st, 2008
06:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama aide: Timing of news about his aunt 'suspicious'

Obama aide David Axelrod, pictured here at a Pennsylvania campaign office earlier this week, called the release of information about Sen. Obama's aunt 'suspicious.'
Obama aide David Axelrod, pictured here at a Pennsylvania campaign office earlier this week, called the release of information about Sen. Obama's aunt 'suspicious.'

(CNN) - Barack Obama’s chief strategist said Saturday that he thought the last-minute appearance of stories like this weekend’s news that the Illinois senator’s aunt may be living in the country illegally would make people “suspicious.”

The Associated Press has reported that Zeituni Onyango, a native of Kenya, has been living in Boston despite losing an appeal for asylum four years ago. Obama’s campaign issued a statement earlier Saturday that the Democratic nominee “has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws should be followed." The campaign also said it would return $265 in donations from Onyango, who is not legally permitted to donate to Obama because she is not a U.S. citizen.

CNN has been unable to independently verify the aunt's immigration status.

On the campaign trail in Nevada, Axelrod said the timing of the report might raise a few eyebrows. "The campaign issued a statement on that," he said. "And I don't have anything more to add to it, other than I think people are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign... I think that they're going to take that, they're going to put it in that context."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan questioned both the timing and the source of the news Saturday, sending a public letter to Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff requesting an investigation.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Extra
soundoff (1,449 Responses)
  1. Tom, KS

    t's funny though how the Gov waited until this weekend to release this info. Clearly Bush is trying to make waves for Obama in hopes of knocking him off stride so close to the election. By keeping it under the radar until now, the story won't develop enough to be anything but an outlandish headline. I hope we aren't fooled again!

    Oh and by the way,
    The Economist, The Financial Times and Ben Bernenke all Endorsed Obama. How can he be considered a socialist.

    November 1, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. CTSadler

    Worst October surprise ever! I was at least hoping for al Sadr being taken down or the body of Bin Laden. This is just lame.

    November 1, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. RET

    who cares? this race if over.

    November 1, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    I can see republican fingerprints all over this.

    The Dishonorable McCain sinks even lower.

    Voted early for Obama/Biden

    November 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. claudia dick

    very suspicious,but if god is for you who can be agains you.

    November 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. jelow

    Who in the world would expect Obama to be on top of his aunt's immigration status?

    Just a guess but I think he has other things on his mind right now.

    She's a grown woman. It's her responsibility. Not her nephew's.

    Odd that this story is breaking right before the election.

    November 1, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. Decided

    I'm not surprised....and I'm still not convinced that Sen Obama is not the right man to lead us in a new direction.

    Obama/Biden 08 - in spite of all GOP shenanigans

    November 1, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. Joe the mechanic.

    Next the Repugnantcans will 'Leak' out a story that Obama'a Aunt is a Muslim and lives in the same town as one of Bin Laden's second cousins. Vote everybody. Please go vote.

    November 1, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. Patty in the CA mountains

    Of course it's suspicious.....like BO said, "it's gonna get nasty".....

    November 1, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. Rachel

    And why am I supposed to care?

    This is such a nonissue...

    November 1, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Matt from NYC

    suspicious is right.

    Good luck getting a Bush surrogate... I mean appointee to investigate anything done by the administration

    November 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  12. Ex-mod-GOP for Obama

    Indeed it is. Fortunately it won't work.

    November 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  13. kyra

    Typical republican ploys. Times a tickin' John McCain.

    November 1, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. Coherent1

    Mr. Axelrod, you are correct. We 'are' suspicious of this "last hour" discovery. However, this tactic will only matter to those who weren't going to vote for Obama anyway. The rest of us will be Barackin' the vote in 3 short days. Obama/Biden!!

    November 1, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. Renata Nicole

    I thought it was illegal to leak this kind of information. I also think it would behoove McCain supporters and the McCain camp to stay away from this story. McCain is struggling with the Hispanic vote and I promise you jumping on this story will not help. Furthermore, I think that if I was here illegally there is no way in the world that I would tell anyone. So I do believe Obama when he says he didn't know her status.

    November 1, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. Lee Griffin

    I dont know what to say about the media and about the McCain campaign. This story popping up just days of the election is VERYsuspicious. Obama stated he didnt know his aunt's citizenship status. She was the sister of the father who was not involved in his life. So to even try to corrupt Obama character to this is disgusting and clearly shows how low we will scoop in order to win an election.

    November 1, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. Connie

    If this is suppose to scare me from voting for Obama it did not work.

    November 1, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. Adriana

    Yeah,its a little suspicious.I smell McCain /Palin into all this, it wont change my mind Senator McCain.Obama is my choice and nobody or nothing will change that.

    Obama/Biden '08 & '12

    November 1, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. P. D.

    This is unreal. Of course the timing is suspicious! This is just another pathetic attempt by the Republicans to change the subject. Tuesday can't come any faster for me. I'm sick of this crap!

    November 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. James

    This news doesn't change anything. The GOP can do this, but it won't work.

    November 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Louise in Arizona

    CNN is doing everything possible to help get McCain elected, it's not enough for McCain to go low CNN you are helping them.
    I know you won't post this.
    SHAME SHAME SHAME CNN

    November 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. 4 THE CONSTITUTION

    Oh Gee Jolly Wiz–who cares! we don't really know her status or if Obama knows- How many illegal immigrants do corporations and companies make money off of a year? That is a much bigger issue. The real question is WHO in the Republican Party leeked confidential government information to the public 3 days before the election. SAME OLD ROVIAN POLITICS>

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Best bday gift on Nov 4 for me is PRESIDENT Obama!!!

    Of course it's suspicious. It's okay though. They will return the monies, they will uphold the law and agree with whatever decisions are made, and this all will be history after Tuesday.

    Truth is, whether is HALF aunt is illegal or not, it still does not change the fact that the McCain campaign is out of touch with America's economy and that we do not need 4 more years of the same. And for those with the negative comments day in and day out about this man. Ask yourself this one question and then seek to find a truthful answer: *Are you really PRO-McCain, or are you simply ANTI-Obama.* Given the state of the nation, now is not the time for personal issues of which to base your vote. This country needs change and we need it now.

    Half of you don't even believe in McCain and his ideals, you just don't want to see Obama in office. Is this really fair to those who suffer around you? I know you're okay, but for the sake of humanity, think of those who are less fortunate. And yes, we DO work. I make 36K a year with the education and experience in my field to make nearly 50K. I'm not looking for a handout. I'm simply looking for economic justice.

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. David Goldman for OBAMA

    THIS MORE BUSH REPUBLICAN SLEAZE !!!!!!

    WE TRASHED YOUR ECONOMY BUT GUESS

    WHERE AUNT ZEITUNI IS ???

    I REALLY COULDN'T CARE LESS &

    I COULDN'T CARE LESS WHERE OBAMA'S COUSIN

    DICK CHANEY IS HOLD UP EITHER. MY 401K IS DOWN 38%,

    & THE VALUE OF MY HOUSE IS DOWN 23%, & SHALL I GO ON?

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  25. Soccer mom from Canada

    CNN how can you report that a woman MAY be an illegal immigrant?
    She is or isn't. If you don't know, don't report it until you do.
    On another note, to publish her name is irresponsible. You have put her safety in jeopardy.

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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