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. carlo

    I don't see the IRS arresting Joe the Plumber, an American citizen, for not paying his taxes, or for working as a plumber without a valid license. How in the heck are the Republicans so heartless that they would expose an elderly woman scared to death of returning home? It's so disgusting.

    November 1, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Lisa Brennan

    Any port in the storm. Any thing they can throw. Dirty dirty dirty politicing. Cheney now comes out of his lair; Palin on her own; big riff in the republican party; numbers in electoral college looking good of Obama; so much at stake~ it all ads up to fundemental change in America~ FUNDEMENTAL~ so please McCain, take this moment to save face and bow down slowly and gracefully by Tuesday so you can retire with some sort of self respect ~and please send Palin back to ALaska and to ask her god for forgiviness. And ask her to stop sniper-killing the wildlife but to continue spreading the wealth of the oil companies ~ that is a form of socialism and it is the one thing I agree with that she did. I am sure it is why she is so popular.

    November 1, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Ovitshio Branco

    I am appalled at Gov. Schwarzeneggers remarks about Barak Obama. When you are so desperate as to make remarks about his so called "scrawny body" that is pathetic. I am 65 years young and I am always teaching my grand-kids to say good things about others, and to be respectful. We have been encourgaging them to follow the presidental race, to get a better understanding of government and an appreciation of the good old U.S.A. They like Obama, and have been cheering him on. After hearing the remarks made by the Republicans. their comments have been "they are mean people Nan, they say hurtful things, I am not going to be like that when I grow up!"
    What have we come too, Not only is the world watching, our children are too!! The nastiness is beyond anything I have ever seen.
    Schwarznegger father was a Nazi so is Arnold

    November 1, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. anonymous

    Exactly why this idiot should not be our President.

    November 1, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. ohio for Obama

    Why is this important? Is she running for president?

    November 1, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. Stuggling American

    It seems to me the dirty tricks are just getting foolishly dumb and dumber. When is the GOP going to give it up? Americans want to hear the issues, this one has nothing to do with the ecomony, war, health care, education, taxes or who is going to be President.

    November 1, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  7. Mary Kay

    This further ties Bush to McCain and the Rove tactics of politics.Not only is this suspicious, but the racial overtones of leaking unsubstantiated allegations against a defenseless Kenayn woman, is just shocking. Wonder how many last minute stories the Obama campaign could "leak" about the secessionist spouse of the VP candidate or the "witch doctor" session with the VP candidate and her Pentecostal Pastor ib tape? You won't see that type of filth from the Obama campaign, because they have run a civilized and professional campaign–unlike McCain. Even McCain's own party is distancing themselves from the inflammatory rhetoric. I would advise all Americans to google Colin Powell's endorsement–its spells it all out.

    November 1, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  8. Ovitshio Branco

    Please, talk me down here! What am I missing? Don't we ALL want someone in the White House who is, above all . . .intelligent, educated, a leader?
    The Republicans are offering a plumber, Joe Six-pack and a Hockey mom. Now, for sure, they all serve their purpose. All have their place, but is that place in the White House? John McCain today said that Joe the Plumber was his "mentor." Shouldn't we be a little alarmed about that?

    November 1, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. nobama

    What's even more suspicious is the timely (for Obama) collapse of the housing market and ensuing debacle.

    November 1, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. mjc

    McCain and Palin have run the nastiest campaign in election history and many American's will not easily forget that! That will be his lasting Legacy. This last sleazy smear attempt will backfire.

    November 1, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. kevin

    all the millions and millions of illegal aileins that the bush admin turned its back and allowed stream into the united states. and now the republicans have pulled this out their rear-end about his aunt at the closing moments of this run for the white house. if she has to go all the 20 million illgals and their anchor babies should prepare to "hit the road jack". how pathetic.

    November 1, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Kurt

    Whoever publicized the immigration status of Obama's aunt:

    1. Was engaged in investigating, perhaps illegally, Sen. Obama's relatives for the purpose of finding possibe negative facts for publication;

    2. Had access to all of Sen. Obama's donor lists in order to do a cross-check, undoubtedly computerized, of each "hit"; and

    3. Possessed the intent to disclose any negative information at a time most likely to affect the election.

    Which group of people most likely had the resources, self-interest and desire to negatively affect Sen. Obama's campaign in such disgusting and dishonorable manner? I suggest that it is a group lead by a former "national hero" who traded his country's respect in return for one news cycle's worth of "me first".

    November 1, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Eugene

    Just part of the kitchen sink, but none of it will matter. Vote change and truth in '08, vote out the neo-cons.

    November 1, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Jonna christensen

    god what

    November 1, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  15. Al

    It really is of no importance except to her and immigration!!!
    it has no * relevance* to Senator Obama if she is a distant relative.She is his dads half sister
    likely the desperate McCain and Palin team throwing another part of the kitchen sink in the mix!!!
    Go Obama-Biden08

    November 1, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. john, american

    It's obvious that Obama is not that close to the Kenyan side of his family. If we are going to hold him accountable for what a distant relative has done, Palin should be held accountable for her teenager daughter becoming pregnant in their family valued – oh-so-conservative household.

    November 1, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. emily

    McCain will do anything to win and the wolf killer just keeps stiring up HATE. Good Christian woman.

    November 1, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. Molly B

    Is this an "October Surprise"? SO WHAT!!!!!!!
    We all realize that Obama is a superior person – quite able to
    take the presidency of the USA – AND that the McCain/Palin
    ticket is made up almost entirely of SLEAZE!

    November 1, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  19. Thomas T. Minja (TZ) e.africa

    Whatever story u may try to make up.. Obama wil stil become your 44th president loser..

    November 1, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  20. c.steeples

    I'm sure this was released to the Republicans- and any investigation will be put off until after Tuesday.

    On another note: has anyone heard the prank phone call to Sarah Palin by the Quebec comedy duo? They are famous for these types of calls-

    November 1, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  21. Colin

    More sneaky attempts of attacks by the Republican party. No one knows her true status and what does it even matter? He doesn't have a close relationship with anyone on that side of his family and like it has been stated time and time again he only saw his father once when he was 10 years old. I think people should be more concerned about McCain/Palin not discussing real issues and about their own interesting relationships as well. It's not going to work this time!!!! I already proudly voted Barack Obama and I encourage everyone else to as well. Vote early if you can!!!!

    November 1, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  22. Chris F.

    I agree this is fishy and was released as an October surprise. I do not believe Obama knew about his aunt's status becuase he does not seem close to his Kenyan relatives. I think the Bush admin. had something to do with this and they have stooped to the lowest they every had.

    November 1, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. mom for obama

    I'm so sick of the attempts to make us distrust and fear Obama. The timing of this information is so obviously planned and designed to breed more suspicions. Unfortunately, due to the anger, fear, and mistrust promoted by the McCain/Palin ticket (primarily on the Palin half of it), people are eating stuff like this up.

    Watching the televised speeches today by Palin and Biden, I was struck by the differences. Palin spoke in an angry voice, talking about what John McCain "won't" do as President. Biden, on the other hand, connected with his audience in an empathetic way, acknowledging the commonalities we all face and encouraging hope and optimism and actually bringing me to tears at one point. It's this difference which guided me to cast my early ballot for Barack Obama and which I hope will lead to us all being able to call him Mr. President at the end of Tuesday evening.

    November 1, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. Spare Me

    So is this the October surprise that so many were contemplating??? It is very suspicious and McCain has been smiling pretty hard for the past 2 weeks as though he knew something that everyone else did not know. Who cares!! If we are going to start holding the candidates responsible for their relatives, let's hold McCain responsible for his wife. Give me a break!!!

    November 1, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  25. Barbara CA

    He had only seen his Kenyan father once in his life. His aunt came here from another country and a very hard life and she says that she has never tried to contact him.

    How unbelievably insensitive it is, to try to win a campaign by destroying someone else’ life. No one knows this lady's life story but she must have had a very hard one.

    There is a song that says "It takes a whole lot of being human to be a human being." Some people are not living up to this standard.

    NO one should forget about their humanity to win a campaign.

    November 1, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
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