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. Mel

    Some of you people are just off base. I am also wondering why this story is coming out so late ... why did the press not do their job during the past few months? There is a lot that we don't know about this man that people are ready to elect president. It's crazy and once again his campaign won't answer these questions, they just say that it's politics as usual. That's just not good enough.

    It's easy to blame McCain for this but he's not the one with an illegal Aunt in the country ... and if the story is in fact true, are we really to believe that he didn't know that his Aunt was here? It's his Aunt, he's a Senator ... something isn't adding up.

    BTW – don't blame the Republicans when you don't know who released this story ... a Republican couldn't be the only person to "know" this story. Look at how long the MSM ignored the Edwards affair story. hmmmm

    November 1, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  2. jet lag

    Ex Senator Al Damato is on the board of the native American casinos .
    (Got a little jammed up in previous email)he and the casinos have
    given McCain a lot of money. Palin's child is pregnant cause mama did
    not tell her about the bird and the bees ,that's cool too.
    See you all in church.
    I like all the morals in this election.

    November 1, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  3. John Robertson

    Dig Dig..\

    It's about time.. I'm sure there is plenty under the rug here..

    Kenyan muslim family with a few skeletons in the closet..

    November 1, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  4. Sue in MI

    How typical that Republicans blamed with digging up dirt on a half- aunt Obama hasn't been in touch with in years compare her to Joe the Plumber, the new sidekick for McCain (paid?) McCain put and has kept Joe in the spotlight to deflect criticism and questions about Palin. Of course when you mention someone 1000 times, the media will try to figure out how he is and how legitimate he is (not very, as it turns out, but as Palin is ethically challenged too, I guess it shows where McCain places the truth on his list of important traits.) This is different from tracking down a long lost relative and trying to get her deported.

    November 1, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  5. FD

    And what exactly does this have to do with Obama's ability to serve as president? Is he somehow responsible for the immigration status of his extended family? Come on. This is a joke, right?

    November 1, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. Elizabeth

    If it is you or me living this same lie, are we supposed to be protected
    for it, NO! Neither is anyone related to any USA Public Candidate.
    I believe Obama is a liar that he dares to state he did not know. He is
    sooooooo intelligent! He is soooooooo informed. He is sooooooo
    elite and eloquent. He lies about the use of campaign funds, he will
    lie about anything. He may be elected, but he will NEVER be the
    first BLACK president. He is half white and there is no way our
    children should be taught and worship his accomplishment as the
    first black president of the America in our history books. Another
    lie he is going for.

    November 1, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. cynthia

    Give me a Break!!! This is the work of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Last minute tricks!!! I voted for Barack Obama this morning!!! I am so glad I did!! OBAMA 08!!!

    November 1, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. Wendy in NC

    Wow, CNN...3 hours later I'm still 'awaiting moderation'. Sometimes I wonder why you even offer a space for comments.

    November 1, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  9. KJL

    I'm sure lots of small minds will think this is a big deal. I have relatives that I haven't kept in contact with, and I'm sure Obama does, too. His parents divorced when he was a baby, so there's even less reason why he would know about this woman.

    The big question is why she wasn't deported when she was found to be here illegally.

    Mamie: I got a "Dear Friend" letter from McCain asking for "emergency funds" and I already voted for Obama!

    November 1, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  10. Joel Parkes

    Fox News is right. Obama's half-aunt is illegal. I'm going to ignore eight years of divisive hate-filled racist homophobic anti-American bile and vote for that articulate visionary John McCain. The beautiful word magic that Fox News spins has once again convinced me.

    November 1, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  11. Amin

    McCain was born in PANAMA not US main land, Does that make news? Find out who he is, which dis-qualify him to be president.

    Missouri for Obama 08

    November 1, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  12. Michael

    Honestly, this latest attempt to attack Obama personally doesn't matter to me. I'd rather the candidates talk about the issues, but apparantly McCain doesn't want to do that.

    November 1, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. Trying to keep up, Is a small town in California Pro or Anti American?

    I have many Aunts and Uncles that have moved here from another country, I have no idea if they are here legally or not. This does nothing to change my mind, I still back Obama.

    November 1, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  14. Harry Katz

    Just watch and note how desperate the McCain campaign is. McCain is not instructing his PR team nor his campaign manager to be responsible and hold off on the dirty tricks. In fact, he is relying upon the dirty tricks to try to win. And wasn't it pitiful to see McCain and Palin, in different locations, try to use Governor Richardson's miscue about the $120,000 level and run with it as if it were true, knowing full well following Richardson's indicating that he made a mistake, that that was a mistake, not to be taken as fact. Yet they are desperate and they are running scared. Let's just lie back, watch, and thank God that they will not be President and President to be. What a poor excuse for an American presidential candidate. Kind of reminds you of Robert Mugabe!

    November 1, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Aghast

    I am in awe that any informed American would think this story has anything to do with the election!! And to remember our ancestors came here any way they could to have a decent life. Unless you are full blooded American Indian, you are born from an immigrant heritage and should be Thankfull. I support someone that does not react with a vengence-spitefull tone to someones misfortune. Have a little intelligent dignity and mix it with a smidgen of empathy.

    November 1, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  16. John Robertson

    Ya .. lets elect a half muslim black guy as leader of the free world..

    That'll get the world laughing when he screws it up worse than Bush ever could..

    Let's become Canada..

    November 1, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  17. Werner Holz

    What`s wrong with all of you. How can you vote for a green horn like Obama? He is a shifty lawer who twist the truth around.
    Wake up America before it is to late. Vote McCain.

    November 1, 2008 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  18. Maria

    Is Sen. Mccain IS so desperate to be President that he will do any thing say any thing, and have his friends say that he let a Black Man bet him. Is that what he is afraid of ,if this black man wins. This is a saying from Malcom X -BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY IS THAT WHAT MCCAIN IS DOING. HE HAD THE NERVE TO BRING ARNOLD TO SPEACK AT A RALLY ,HE CAN NOT RUN HIS OWN CITY IN CALIFORNIA. SO WHAT DOES THAT SAY. PLUS HIS WIFE MARIA IS FOR OBAMA .I HATE TO SAY THIS BUT WHO IS TO SAY MCCAIN WILL NOT GET ALZHEIMER LIKE PRESIDENT REGAN I KNOW HE HAD IT BEFORE HE LEFT OFFICE AND HIS WIFE WAS RUNING THE SHOW. ONE MORE THING WHY IS COLOR/RACE SO IMPORTANT WHY CAN'T HE JUST BE A MAN OR WOMAN? BLACK PEOPLE ARE VOTING FOR A BLACK NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON AND YOU HAVE WHITE PEOPLE VOTING FOR MACAIN NO MATTER WHAT THERE REASONS ARE. WELL WEDNESDAY IT WILL BE OVER AND MAY THE BEST MAN WIN,

    November 1, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  19. Kathy

    All this proves is that the Republican administration, with all their emphasis on secure borders hasn't been able to secure them, check who is in the country, or properly screen those coming in, as she's been back and forth several times. Why should Obama know her status. Heck I don't know the status of all my relatives by a long shot. Her request for asylum is none of his business and it is to his credit that he didn't try and throw his political weight around and get her permanent residency.

    November 1, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  20. bond_dallas

    DL Hughley's show should be cancelled. It is horrible in tone and it stereotypes the antiques of black people. What a terrible time to have DL talk this mess. Imagine that! DL is so foolish. I used to like him but now he is just ghetto uneducated. I am black and I am mad.
    Al Sharpton saved the day though. He talked good sense. It's time to bring America together and not time to show the ignorance of how black people will celebrate.

    November 1, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  21. Peg

    Reading about some of the latest attacks/flyers by Republicans over at Huffingtonpost.com I'm appalled. Hopefully the US voters are smart enough to realize these vicious attacks have no merit.

    November 1, 2008 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  22. Christine D

    I find Obama's family ties very strange. His grandmother is dying and he doesn't take his two girls to see her.

    November 1, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  23. Chris

    For all the people bashing Obama for Joe the Plumber, saying it is fair play because someone "leaked" Joe's information – here is the difference: The INS information on Nationals living in America is NOT Public information, Joe's Tax's, or liens, and whether he is a licensed plumber ARE public information. Do your homework instead of parroting Faux News or a propagandist like Hannity or O'Riley.

    November 1, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  24. David Stein

    CNN, PLEASE RUN THIS...SARAH PALIN GOT PUNKED BY 2 CANADIAN PRANKSTERS POSING AS SARKOZY!!!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  25. Repub 4 Obama

    A plumbing license is not the only license "Joe the Plumber" is having troubles with. The former Mesa resident has a suspended driver's license and outstanding court fines in Arizona, according to Mesa Municipal Court records.

    November 1, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
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