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. Mark B.

    Well Well i bet that this was known a while back but was held for release till today for an attempt at a last minute sucker punch.

    I have no idea of the status of my aunts citizenship. Nor is that any of my business. Just because we share some blood simularities doesn't implicate me in any of here day to day doings.

    Some how some way Americans need to do away with this CRAP! When I was a kid I always wanted to be president and when I grew up I realized what a dirty dirty political world we live in. Truth Justice and the American way is the past.

    Our children have to see this!! Our children will grow up in this dirty environment. This Power hungry limitless Political US of A.

    The saddest part is , we will do it all again in 3 and a half years.

    SHAMELESS

    November 1, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  2. Peter (CA)

    Foam at the mouth all you want right wingers–we don't buy it. This is a non-story or it would have been taken care of before now.

    Don't worry about Obama and his background. It's been all drug through the mud over and over. Right wingers should worry about your new heroes-like the unvetted Sarah Palin.

    November 1, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  3. Wendy in NC

    Muf...Stalin to Hitler?? You need remedial history lessons...LOL

    This bit of news only means that another gov't official leaked info that wasn't supposed to be public 72 hours before the election.

    As far as Obama's Kenyan relatives, he only met his father once and that was when he was 10 yrs. old. He traveled to Kenya after college and discovered that his grandfather and his father had been married many times and had produced many children. I do not hold him responsible for all his half-aunt, half-grandmother, half-brothers/sisters any more than I would hold McCain responsible for the black relatives he has that are descended from the McCain family's slaves.

    What IS important to me is Sen. Obama's current family. The genuine love he has for his wife and daughters shines as a wonderful example to us all as true family values. I admire that.

    November 1, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. TF

    Sharon, you cannot be serious. "Two well respected professors?" Regardless of any connection, even an Obama supporter should recognize Bill Ayers as a piece of trash. His latest book had a tribute to Sirhan Sirhan for gods sakes!! Look of some of the others Bill Ayers has paid tributed to in his books. Half of them are cop killers, some of which are on deathrow. Even Ward Churchill isn't as radical as Ayers.

    November 1, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  5. Bulldog

    Wow, I would love who tipped of the AP. That should be a story in itself.

    November 1, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  6. What is wrong

    Sorry but this has nothing to do with Obama. Here is why:

    1. My father and mother divorced when I was 7 years old.

    2. My father has 3 other daughters from a previous marriage.

    3. My half sisters and I do not keep in contact. Does this make me a bad person?

    4. I was not very close to my father so how in the world do you expect for me to be close to my half sisters.

    5. Same with Obama's situation. He did not grow up with his dad. Although he tried to reach out to some of his family members in Kenya, it is very hard to keep a close relationship when the very link that keeps you together is not in your life.

    6. I couldn't tell you the status of any of my aunts. Has it gotten so bad that Americans expect for you to be accountable for your relatives. Give me a break.

    November 1, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  7. Lynn in NM

    The claim that Obama doesn't know his aunt's status is just about unbelievable, in my opinion.

    November 1, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  8. Randy

    Just 3 more day and Obama will be the next president amen. Have you ever listen to Sarah talk it sounds like a cat with it's tail caught in a fan god her voice is sicking so Sarah it's over pack your packs and head back to moose city bye bye

    November 1, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  9. WOW - Irving, TX and Women for Obama

    MCCAIN you should be ashamed of yourself, but when you will do anything to win.

    Hey Mccain what about your plastic wife sister that she totally disregared. Give me a break....Maccain you and your drugged up wife should and will go back to AZ even after you lose.

    Remember this, you don't have a chance of winner because it is not
    GOD's will for you to will.

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. kate

    Wow! what a concept - Republicans engaging in covert actions and dirty tricks. Who knew?? It seems to never end: the ghost of Richard Nixon.....

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  11. Dameun Strange

    WHO CARES CNN? How does this affect the next four years? Like I said...remember Dan Rather? Pack your bags, too.

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  12. Dave T

    Let's hear about:

    1) Todd Palin's disloyalty to America through his memberhsip in the AIP.
    2) Sarah Palin's medical records. I still think Trig is not her child. If Sarah Palin would release her medical records, the truth could come out.

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  13. jcow

    I'm shocked!!! If this is truly Obama's Aunt, where the hell has he been! He was willing to take her money for his campaign but not get her out of poverty. It makes me angry to think he talks about taking Joe the Plummer's money to give the disadvantaged a hand out but wouldn't help his own family. He is sitting U.S. Senator for goodness sake, I think he makes enough to hire a good lawyer to help with her immigration case. And "to tell the truth just once" – if you honestly think that is Palin on the phone you are extremely naive. I doubt she has answered the phone for the last two months. She has people screening all but the most personal calls. There would have been two or three aides on the line before this Canadian Disk Jockey would have been connected to her. Wake up America – you are about to be buy your biggest mistake!

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  14. vic

    Just to clarify, legal permanent residents can contribute to campaign funds. You don't have to be a citizen to donate, you just have to be one to vote. Just like paying tax money. All perfectly acceptable, as long you don't try claiming welfare. Being a green card holder, I accept and bide by the rules of this country, but I can't help questioning them sometimes. How about getting the INS to clarify this woman's status before slinging the mud? Oh that's right, because they're not supposed to comment on individual cases. Interesting then that her case just happened to 'slip out' to the AP.

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. CARL

    Obama, should put out a law suit on the republicans and every news agency like Cnn, and yahoo news for putting this on the websites.

    November 1, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. Erik from Real PA

    Let's see. . . Keating 5 scandal, G. Gordon Liddy friendship, cheating on handicapped wife with prescription drug abuser, Alaska Independence Party connections, questionable per diem and children's travel expenses, "abuse of power" designation by Alaska legislature and violation of state ethics law.

    All this and more, the Obama campaign chose not to capitalize on. Now THAT is character.

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. Bea

    Palin – give up. You are not running for president – only to be a VP and you do not know what that means – Now bunching up on an aunt – how much lower can you get? As you do not listen to your advisers and if you do – than sorry – none of this makes sense. Quit running down good and honest people. You and Sen. McCain (mostly you) should have told all of us what is important – not your petty accusations. GO HOME

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  18. Erin

    Obama also refuses to release his thesis paper....

    It seems like he has too many secrets.

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Seattle4Obama

    A typical last minute act of desperation by the GOP administration to help one of their own. It is not going to work this time around. I am just amazed at Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and staff, that they were so clueless to the sufferings of thousands of Katrina victims but on top of things when it comes to the asylum status of Zeituni Onyango out of millions of asylum applicants. I am wondering how much money and resources did they spend to dig out and leak this NO NEWS to the press.

    Vote early..Obama/Biden 08/2012

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. charles McMullen

    I am personally sick and tired of the sleezy,underhanded, lies and the personal attacks on the democatic candidate for president. If John McCain can't win this election on his merits and policies then he should .if he has any, moral convitions call off the lie spreaders and hate mongers that pervade the republican party leaders and advisors.
    I am a white Vietnam veteran also shot down in Vietnam in 1968 but I am not a hero nor would I want to be called one. Along with many thousands od veterans I answered the call for my country. I did not then or now expect any alcolades. I find it hypocritical to use the military service as a political boost. Finally CNN should check out the actual records of what really happened in Hanoi. It isn't what you hear or see in the political ads. These are selected bits and pieces without the facts being brought to bear to the public. Most veterans don't talk about their service and the real hero's are on the wall, WE CAME BACK, They didn't.

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  21. Beatriz Perez-Sanchez

    Why shouldn't this issue be addressed? You can bet your last dollar that, if Sarah Palin or John McCain had a relative living illegally in the United States, it would be front-page news and the subject of every telecast for a long time to come. Obama should be subjected to the same degree of scrutiny that is applied so vigorously to his opponents.

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Frem

    So, the DemoCRAPS think the timing of the news about Hussein Obama's aunt is "suspicious". How about the fact that the pretender kept the news secret. If that isn't suspicious, I don't know what is. You can't convince any normal thinking person that he didn't know what was going on with his aunt, a family member, who donated to his campaign. Keep in mind that not only was she here illegally, she occupied public housing for which she isn't even entitled to as an alien resident. These are only minor secrets that this imposter is keeping from the American public. Once he occupies the White House, the real Obama will emerge, like an insideous insect from his cocoon, and then watch out, America, he will eat your existance and your freedom like a hungry locust. Be forwarned, this man is the Anti-Christ if there ever was one and he walks among us now.

    November 1, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  23. MS Redhead

    Sarah Palin the Alaskan Lobbyist: Where are Sarah the successionist Alaskan Lobbyist medical records?

    Sarah's medical records must be in the same place as Obama's list of donors and his REAL birth certificate.

    November 1, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  24. Dee Caines

    The AP is totally biased! Oh, there is one little Kenyan woman living in the United States illegally! Gee, she might be taking up space that some other nice illegal alien could be using!

    November 1, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  25. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    That's RIGHT, when you contribute on the OBAMA web site, you must declare that you are a US Citizen. There are so many suspicious things happening, being said and done by the far-right that I am WORRIED ABOUT OUR DEMOCRACY!

    Just now I checked out the Chris Matthews "Hardball" and he had a Democrat and a Republican on. The Republican guy would not allow the Democrat to speak and Chris did not intervene. Makes me wonder why there is a moderator?

    This whole thing about the aunt is vile. What can Sen. Obama do about his relative? Deport her? Aren't we all...... FREE to do as we please? Obama has been a bit busy in the last year and a half.

    Republican politics have become not just......VILE.......not just hateful.......but downright......... DYSFUNCTIONAL!

    Please Sen. McCain, you have already sold your soul! Save some dignity!

    November 1, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
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