November 1st, 2008
06:30 PM ET
6 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. Oh My!

    This is going to be the tip of the iceberg of the many things that Obama is hiding.

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. GA Independent

    More McScum – so what else is new? Will anyone really think anything different?

    November 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. michael

    i am sure the republicans are trying to find a way to pin this on obama. guess what- it will not work this time.

    November 1, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. MLH

    Suspicious? That would be kind. Whether it is true or not, it has nothing to do with Senator Obama, and 'scurrilous' is the word that I would choose. Clearly the news was released with an eye to smearing him somehow – unclear how he is responsible for his father's half-sister's actions. This is the way that the George Bush administration has dealt with people – remember the CIA agent whose identity was leaked? And now the McCain campaign is doing the same type of thing. We don't need another four years of the same old politics.

    November 1, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Obama has double standards

    I guess its ok to be an illegal immigrant if your related to Obama, but not okay for the other 11 million illegal immigrants.

    You really believe Obama did not know that his Aunt who gave money to his campaign was an illegal immigrant? If you believe that then you probably believe that Obama never heard any anti American or Anti Jewish propaganda in the 20 years he sat in the pews of Jeimiah Wrights Church. YEAH RIGHT!!!!!!!!

    Tax payers I hope you recognize that you have been paying for Obamas aunt to live in public housing even though she is an illegal immigrant.

    Time to Wake up America

    November 1, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. StepRN

    ...And we still do not know Senator McCain's economics plan, but, he has time to expose this information.

    A shame he has gone down this road.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    November 1, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Will from CO

    No conveniently timed bin Laden video this time around, so they had to come up with their own replacement. Honestly, is anyone still surprised by this kind of tactic? It will backfire. The American people are tired of the smears, the mudslinging, the fear-mongering and the constant rhetoric that has absolutely nothing to do with policy or issues. I supported McCain over Bush in 2000, but I have lost all respect for the man. Experience is irrelevant to me at this point, I'll be voting for the guy who has stuck to a consistently positive message and is actually willing to talk about what he will do as president, instead of "I'll do good things, now let's talk about how you should be afraid of my opponent". Enough McCain, even your VP candidate is distancing herself from you.

    November 1, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Roger Cyr

    When I hear all the garbage being thrown by Palin and McCain as a Canadian and the news media even covering it such as the dummy on CNN Friday afternoon who accused Obama of being anti-semetic, I find it disgusting that Americans would have the audacity to try to preach democracy in other parts of the world. Your kind of democracy is shameful, disgusting. Please do not tell Iraq about what democracy is about, when you cannot even provide a fair system of letting black people vote in Florida. The audacity amazes me. Let the racist continue the war in Iraq for another five years. How often have we heard about those poor American soldiers during the last three months who are fighting a war which is absolutely impossible to win and a duplication of Vietnam. I hope Obama looses, so the American people finally see what racism has brought them except dead soldiers and severe handicapped young men. How sad.

    November 1, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. TMS

    My living father has a half sister. I could not tell you what she is doing or where she is, and it would be ludicrous for someone to attempt to hold me responsible for anything she does.

    This is the half-sister of his estranged deceased father (he spent 5 months with his father when he was 10 years old). He was raised my his grandparents! How could any reasonable person try to imply that he might be responsible for this woman's actions, who by the way, is an adult. I still can't believe CNN is reporting this story!

    November 1, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Puffin

    Half-aunt.. gee wizz I have no clue if I even have such relatives. This is just a below a belt shot. How about McCain and Palin's health records?

    November 1, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Flo

    My thought exactly............................McCain/Bush is in bed together. We need to explore the relationship. DON'T FALL FOR REPUBLICAN BS.

    November 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. A US Service Man

    Voters will see this "October Surprise" for what it is:
    A very insidious piece of political nastiness on the part of the W. administration and the Repubs to try to force Obama to watch his Half Aunt get deported on election day.
    One thought; does the McCain campaign and McCain supporters really want to cheer or gloat over the obviously politically motivated deportation of a 56 year old nursing and mentoring volunteer?
    If anyone cheers or gloats about Bush's last gasp of political nastiness, I think average "real" Americans will find them really sick.
    Punishing people for purely politically motivated reasons is very un-American. Real Americans are better than that, Bush.

    November 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. David Goldman for OBAMA

    OH, BY THE WAY THE RELEASE OF SUCH

    INFORMATION MAY BE A FEDERAL OFFENSE.

    BUT AS WE HAVE FOUND OUT IN THE LAST 8 YEARS

    BUSH DOESN'T FOLLOW THE LAW & AS WE HAVE FOUND OUT

    IN THE LAST 26 YEARS, NEITHER DOES MCBUSH, KEATING FIVE.

    November 1, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Wash

    The GOP is setting up to steal this election and they won't stop. McShame will sell his own mother if it means wining the election.

    November 1, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. michael

    i heard it from a reliable source that Palin actually supported obama before she was picked to be mccains vp. check out palin on You Tube under obama endorsement.

    November 1, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Ruby S

    After flying from Idaho to PA in April to campaign for Obama; after watching this man rise from the humblest circumstances to a leader of the free world with such dedication, kindness and love extended to his wife, children, sister, and grandmother I do not believe in my heart that a) he was involved with this distant relative; that b) he had any knowledge of her whereabouts; and c) that we have enough information to make a judgment about why she is Barack Obama's responsibility. John McCain's brother calls people in North Virginia communists; Sarah Palin's husband exerts pressure on Alaska state employees to fire his brother-in-law...and John McCain was involved in a fatal car accident in which he was the driver that has been covered up by the US Navy for 40+ years. So what? Who cares? AND who is digging this dirt up at the very end of this campaign. Is this truly the best the GOP could come up with? If so, Obama's obviously and truly the best we could have hoped for..

    November 1, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. dustin

    i love how cnn just plays into all these games, i'd expect it from fox, and even msnbc, but cnn, really?

    November 1, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. mike

    Is this the big November surprise? Is this the best the republican scum can dig up at this late hour? Somehow I have to think there is worse yet to come. McCain Palin and the desperate repubs make me want to vomit.

    November 1, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. oscar

    who cares? this will not deter those who aspires for change and those who will vote obama. Whatever will be wil be and no amount of name calling and fault-finding can stop it. Unfortunately Obama has always been the target. last time it was his half brother. what have you all done to dig on mccain's family or dig on Palin's family beginning from her youthful upbringing. you who have not even tried to know of the medical history of her who aspires to be your NEXT PRESIDENT. Enough is enough.

    November 1, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. wow

    Of course..another pathetic attempt by the GOP to disqualify Obama. The more they act this way, the more everyone hates them. Please, McCain, continue on this pathway to destruction. It only helps Obama more and shows the American people how truely pathetic your campaign has become.

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08!!!!

    November 1, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. Larry

    'suspicious' ???How about just in the nick of time-thanks CNN

    Next week a whole lot of 'suspicious' stuff will be released,unfortunately it will be after the election,and the media will have helped elect there man.This is the new politics.We will all pay,and everybody will be sorry,till next time.

    November 1, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. brad

    A non issue and quite frankly a dangerous one. Whoever did leaked this out put that woman in danger. To be frank it sounds like she is worthy of a citizenship.

    November 1, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. eg78

    Very interesting. So homeland security does nothing about this four years ago when her asylum was denied and now they let this information leak with efficiency 72 hours before the election. Republicans are disgusting. They need to get away, far away from power. I already cast my vote all the way democrat and I encourage every body to do so. This kind of tactics can't continue happening.

    November 1, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Tarek

    I think this is a Republic strategy that is all about making voters uncomfortable with Obama. They are really trying to imply that he is not as American as the people voting for him. That's the purpose of these circulating stories. In other words, the McCain campaign is all about Fear. A little too late don't you think? Both candidates are Americans who love this country, and even as a conservative, I resent these tactics.

    November 1, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. Dr. Mimi De La Cruz

    I AM HEART SICK THAT DICK CHANEY DID NOT ENDORSE

    HIS COUSIN OBAMA, BUT ENDORSED MCBUSH INSTEAD.

    I GUESS GREED IS THICKER THAN BLOOD.

    November 1, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
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