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. Cathy in Vermont

    "CNN has been unable to independently verify the aunt's immigration status." Then why are you printing this crap???

    November 1, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  2. Mwalimu Daudi

    A foretaste of the coming crackdown on civil liberties in the Obamanation.

    America: meet your version of Robert Mugabe.

    November 1, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  3. Carl

    This is a non-story about Obama's Dad's half-sister, it says nothing about the man running for president. The timing is very, very curious.

    November 1, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  4. USAF RET

    This is nothing.

    November 1, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  5. Winnie Hussein.... in Montana

    So many tries by McCain and Palin to dig up dirt on Sen. Obama, and it is all stupid. I agree with the comment earlier that they have attacked two well-respected professors at top notch universities just to further their own political ambitions. That is disgusting. And before anyone says Sen. Obama attacked Joe the Plumber, that is simply not true. After "Joe" promoted himself, the media and individuals found out information about him, Sen. Obama did not do that, I and many others with access to the Internet did that.

    Anyway, I am interested in why no one at CNN or any other MSM outlets have pushed for Palin's medical records. Obviously, she is hiding something. From what I have been able to figure, her first kid was born too soon after her wedding for her not to have been pregnant when she got married. Maybe that's what she's trying to hide.

    November 1, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Recovering Republican

    I'm sickened by the personal attacks going both ways. It's disgusting that such issues are taking center stage in such an important election. It's about the issues....that simple. Who has the better plan.

    I'm a moderate conservative who thinks the Bush administration has gone too far. It's obvious that other moderates have seen the light too and are endorsing Obama. I'm tired of being told I should be afraid by this "republican party". Using fear to gain votes just doesn't sit well with me. I'm far too educated to fall for that.

    November 1, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Dre

    Two notorious Quebec comedians have pranked Sarah Palin, tricking the Republican vice-presidential nominee into thinking she was speaking with French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a Saturday afternoon phone call.

    "Oh my God, seriously, it's probably the biggest we've ever done," Marc-Antoine Audette, a member of comedy duo The Masked Avengers, told CTV.ca Saturday afternoon.

    During the nearly seven-minute chat, the conversation ranges from politics to hunting with vice-president Dick Cheney.

    The topics also touch on Palin's political future - a sensitive topic for some of John McCain's campaign staffers, who have suggested Palin is already looking at a presidential run in the next four years.

    "I see you as a president one day, too," says one of the pranksters to Palin.

    "Maybe in eight years," she responds.

    The duo, who have a regular show on Montreal radio station CKOI, have also made prank calls over their 10-year history to celebrities like Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears and Sarkozy himself.

    "We have such great respect for you," Palin tells the Sarkozy impersonator during the conversation. "John McCain and I, we love you and thank you ..."

    The impersonator also says he has been closely following the U.S. election through his special advisor "Johnny Hallyday," the French pop icon. He also refers to "Canadian Prime Minister Stef Carse."

    Speaking to CTV.ca, Audette later claimed that Palin "didn't know who the prime minister of Canada was." But the prankster spoke quickly during the conversation with Palin, and it's unclear whether she heard the fake name clearly. As governor of Alaska, Palin has worked closely with Canadian officials.

    At another point in the chat, the impersonator says in a fake Parisian accent that the pair might use a helicopter to go hunting.

    "We should go hunting together," replies Palin. "We can have a lot of fun together while we're getting work done. We could kill two birds with one stone."

    But when the fake Sarkozy makes a joke that they shouldn't extend the invitation to vice-president Dick Cheney, Palin says, "I'll be a careful shot."

    In 2006, Cheney accidentally shot and injured a friend during a bird hunting trip.

    The conversation also touches upon Sarkozy's model-singer wife Carla Bruni.

    "You've added a lot of energy to your country with that beautiful family of yours," says Palin.

    "Give her a big hug for me."

    Nearing the end of the conversation, the impersonator tells Palin she's been "pranked," and an aide quickly cuts off the conversation.

    Later in the day, a spokeswoman for Palin emailed politico.com, a blog dedicated to U.S. politics, and confirmed that the chat had taken place.

    "Gov. Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy, and other celebrities in being targeted by these pranksters. C'est la vie," Tracey Schmitt in the email.

    Starting with persistent phone calls to Alaska, Audette said it took the duo - which also includes Sebastien Trudel - about four days of phone calls to Palin's handlers to finally get in touch with her.

    November 1, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. John Milton

    But of course...the rules don't apply to the Liberals. I REALLY look forward to having Obama give my money away despite the fact that no one helped me along the way.

    Say hello to Socialism America!!

    November 1, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. angie

    JOHN McCAIN WAS BORN IN PANAMA NOT IN THE USA AND NO ONE TALK , OR WRITE ABOUT THIS WHY ? PLEASE USA TALK MORE ABOUT THIS, AS A CANADA I WILL BE RUNING FOR VP 2012 NO PROBLEM ........... WITH SARAH , SARAH & McCAIN VERY DUM.....DUM
    FIRST I HAVE SEEN IN THE USA THE WORLD IS WORRID. USA PLESE
    WAKEUP.

    November 1, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  10. Brett

    Wow, so desperate. Why is this relevant? Let's do background checks on everyone down the McCain family tree. Truly pathetic. Palin's immediate family has plenty of skeletons, luckily the Obama campaign hasn't stooped to that level. Hopefully this junk won't pay off for McCain. More Rove-Bush style politics of division and fear. McCain is earning the McBush title. Sad, I used to respect McCain.

    November 1, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. Chris

    When will someone point out that Palin is the governor of Alaska that has a socialistic program that takes the tax dollars from the oil companies and gives every Alaskan a $1000 dividend check each year. Why has her hypocrisy not been brought up?

    November 1, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Lee

    This story FIRST broke in the LONDON TIMES! Obama should try to find out why the Brits don't want him to be President.

    This is more than funny - he should start investigating Democrats for leaking the story. It's how they attempt to destroy someone. Just ask Dan Rather!!!!

    November 1, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  13. Dan

    Where is the headline news of Cheney endorsing McCain and Palin?

    November 1, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. syl

    Given Obama track record of not telling the truth (e.g amount of campaign contribution he received from Retzko etc) , it is incredulout that he would not have know of his aunt. Is not this the guy who boasts about values, family etc.
    Part of the problem the media has really never held him accountable for anything....so he believes he could get away with everything.

    November 1, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  15. Thurman

    Is there any indication that Obama did anything wrong? If not, then it's just sound and fury.

    November 1, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. sandee in Portland

    You know, I think that if Obama had known about his aunt, he would have tried to help her file an appeal with the INS. After all, they turned down her request years ago. This is the feds fault that she is still living here. As usual, the government is not doing it's job. I feel sorry for her and all the attention that is now going to come her way. Maybe now that Obama knows about it, he can help her.

    And, CNN, am I wrong in thinking that if an unknown source leaked this information, it should not be presented as fact until the source is named?

    November 1, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  17. alex

    If we have to start being responsible for our relatives Geez Im in trouble to!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  18. charlie

    black people are not voting for obama because he is black, blacks have always voted for dems, some people are very dumb

    November 1, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  19. Mike O

    What's suspicious is why Mr. 'Share the Wealth' has never done a thing for his Aunt, his Uncle, his half brother, or the cousins he promised to help 2 years ago. Try sharing your own wealth to family first before you appropriate ours.

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  20. LT951

    I believe this is another desperate attempt by the mcSAME-Palin ticket.....Who cares....There are over 11million immigrants here and noone is saying anything about them.....This election is going to be based on nothing more than race!!!!......Those expressing opinions against Barack need to shut up, because John McCain Sh&* stinks too!!!!......The only people he want to help is people like himself...OLD, GRUMPY, IRRITATED, SENILE etc. And for all you mcSAME supporters how dumb can you be cheering for Joe the plumber. He is nothing more than an Unemployed freeloader, who owes goverment taxes and is trying to come up on as many freebies as he can!!!...........

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  21. JEFF LEE

    Oh yeah, i think Obama himself is pretty suspicious.......

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. maddy

    all this time palin been on trail , she has drag those kids with her, i,m a mother, " i have kids who are in school every day, so why are her kids not in school" dose any one know the ans, to this one"??

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. To California Native!

    Dear, I'm sorry for your loss, and I do hope that this election season is not cause for you to live your land, as a matter of fact, you should voice your opinion and make a better choice this election. Instead of moving out of your land, vote for change and help others that are probably in your situation (like that of your daughter's when she was alive and sick) get a better chance with healthcare. May God bless you and heal your heart for your loss.

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Carolyn

    All I can say, you Obama supporters, wait until you have no paycheck left to spend on anything and everything you want. Obama will take, and take and take until there is nothing left, then he will give it to those people who do not work, or pay any kind of taxes. You will then see who should have been elected president, John McCain.

    November 1, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  25. Brandon

    more slime from mclame. He has NOTHING so he has lied, smeared, slandered and tried to divert attention from the pittiful trickle down bush mongering of his campaign. Last thing he wants is people thinking about the issues when they walk in that voting booth Tuesday. He really doesn't want them thinking about him being a 72 year old cancer victim with repeated recurrences and Caribou barbie as the backup...

    November 1, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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