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. Dennis

    That's not suspicious, it's just what you expect from a Rove driven campaign. They say Obama's been more prone to play hardball this campaign than Democrats generally do but he still hasn't stooped anywhere near to the depths of the Republicans. If he had he could have brought up the fact that, according to NPR, a large contingent of the KKK was at U Miss for the 1st debate and you can bet they weren't there to support Obama. How about digging really deep and hinting something about the Manchurian Candidate factor, you can bet the Republicans would have done it. Maybe show the video of Palin addressing her friends at the Alaska Independence Party conference FROM THE GOVERNORS OFFICE! You know the AIP whose founder said he hated everything about the United States, the one First Dude "was" a member of.

    November 1, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. toby hill

    so what about the "timing"? Obama knew his aunt lived here in the US. Obama knew his aunt traveled here on a temporary status. Obama knowing she was still here had to have known she was illegal. Obama broke campaign finance laws by accepting money from her and he broke the law by failing to report his aunt's illegal status as is required by the oath that he took being sworn in as a Senator.

    November 1, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Maria Sadrieh

    In the next few months the rest of Mr. Obama's family (brothers and sisters) will show up in United State. As usual he will deny to know or see them before!!!!!!!!

    November 1, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. GOP DESPERATION

    Of course the timing of this is no coincidence. This is strait from the DICK CHENY/KARL ROVE playbook. Horrible. But even worse then that. How dare the media allow this to become an issue. A half-aunt with a questionable immigration status. What does this have to do with ANYTHING???????? The 4th estate trying to do it again. In 2004 you made sure Osama Bin Laden was the image we seen walking into voting booths. Now in 2008 you want us walking into the voting booths with the image of Obama's foreign, un-American, yes, un-American half relative. Great work CNN.

    November 1, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. rs

    McCain can't keep track of his ethically handicapped Vice Presidential nominee, her executive experience includes abuse of power. Is Obama's inability to keep a track on relatives supposed to be a deal breaker? Its not what happens, its how you respond to what happens. I really think Obama has run a better campaign and has better executive talent than McCain. McCain has been reactive, angry, and hasn't been able to stay on message. Obama has been focused and consistently on message since 2004. When this is all over, I hope we can find common ground. VOTE or Shut Up!

    November 1, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. JOHN

    THIS IS NOTHING BUT MORE SMEAR! IF SLINGING MUD IS HOW THEY WANT TO PLAY THIS THAN SOMEONE SHOULD GO AHEAD AND LET CINDY MCCAIN HAVE IT FOR HER DRUG THEFT AND USE. MCCAIN HAS PROVED TIME AND TIME AGAIN HE HAS NOTHING TO RUN ON BY THE WAY HIS WHOLE CAMPAIGN HAS BEEN NOTHING BUT SLANDERING OBAMA AND AVOIDING THE ISSUES THAT ARE AFFECTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

    November 1, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. lim

    Everything that potentially casts a negative light on Obama is suspicious: Thou shall not cross the messiah!

    Give me a freaking break!

    Once upon a time it used to be that the Republican is a party of whiners.

    November 1, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Sgt RayRay

    How is the relevant to any of our problems? Really, we have criminals that are here illegally and they expect people to care about 1 elderly woman? How about doing a better job of investigating those that are here illegally and taking our jobs or conducting criminal activities? Those are the ones that really matter. Its going to be really sad if they find out the McCain camp had anything to do with bringing this story up. Not relevant, and will not make a difference, maybe if they tried to do better on their campaign positions they wouldn’t be so behind in the polls. You call yourself a real American....act like it, true soldiers don’t whine....huuuaaa!!! Maybe you can give me your address and I can send you some cheese McSame....You have definitely changed from what made you a real candidate in 2000...you have become BUSH.

    November 1, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. Andrew From The Bronx

    Deport Her. She Has Been Living Off Of Us American's

    November 1, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  10. Marie Banderas in TEXAS

    I thought McCains camp said they didnt "know" who his supporters were and wanted copies of all his donors ? How then, did he know just how much ( if any) Obamas aunt had donated to Obamas campaign ??? eve3ry time McCain camp "leaks" info, they leave more questions than answers...if I suspect anyone of anything, its the McCain group, along with bUSH ! Rats !!!!! cant even run a honerable campaign OR say anything decent about Obama as Obama does him..
    already voted in Texas for OBAMA...try and steal our votes now MC CAIN....your eveil..what happened to the rEAL MCCain ??????????????

    November 1, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Ken James

    We are at the end of the general election. Has Sarah Palin released her medical file. If not, one has to wonder what the delay is and if she is holding someething back like perhaps her mental health status. There is a need to know and a right to know and I think a potential VP is important. Didn't a McCain aid call her a whacko last week?

    November 1, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Andrew From The Bronx

    Another One Who Feels We Owe Something

    November 1, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Strider

    Hmmm..seems like the Homeland Security's data information is not totally secured. Such malicious attempt no doubt coming from the supporters of the Republcan side to make a final ditch to swiftboat Sen. Obama. Only I don't think it will work....not this time!

    God bless you both Sen. Obama & Sen. Biden, the US future Mr. President and Vice President!

    November 1, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Tom-jerry

    Why are we so afraid of the truth?

    November 1, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. Michelle

    Her status has nothing to do with the campaign or Obama as a person. Many people who are recent immigrants to the US have family members in similar situations and those people are not responsible for their family members' actions. Are these people automatically disqualified from political office? Is Obama not as "American" because his dad's family did not come to to these shores in the 19th century before the status "illegal" even existed? McCain has not even referenced the story at his rallies today b/c he himself knows and once sympathized with people in her situation. For whatever reason he is not mentioning it, I will give him a lot of credit for not being as desperate as others in the GOP who will jump on this story thinking it should and/or will make a difference.

    November 1, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Jodi K

    does anyone care if she is illegal? I mean, this is not going to change my vote

    November 1, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. AmericanFeminist

    Good on the GOP, they finally got that major October surprise they've been hoping for. A day late, but I'm sure this story is going to bring down the Obama campaign. Like Failin' Palin said in the previous article... the Obama campaign is starting to unravel! Yea, right.

    Hey, CNN, can you please provide us with the average number of supporters that are showing up at Barack's rallies, compared to McCain's? Does McCain fill a high school auditorium?

    November 1, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. zena

    I have watched throughout this political process...and I can't believe that not many people are looking at Obama and saying..."Where is he getting all his backing?" He has a 24-7 station on Dish Network that runs constantly...he had a 30 minute major stations and cable "talk"...3.5 million for that alone...doesn't that scare the heck out of you people? He is trying to "buy" the American people...I would not care if he was blue...(Smurf)...color is not what it is about ....it is his background and some of the things he wants to do...take from the rich and give to the poor?? Won't work...not like that...and this all comes from someone that is a democrat...and that scares me...I have waited all this time to maybe see something I like about Obama...NOT seeing it...don't care too much for McCain either...isn't that sad? If "whoever" gets in there does not hit the ground running...our country is not going to be AT ALL ready for the new year...and that is not good.
    Think. Stop look listen...please.
    Zena

    November 1, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Annette

    Hummm...here's that nasty stuff Sen. Obama was referring to on the campaign trail. When you don't have a plan\, attack the man.

    November 1, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. Lou R

    Is this the awaited October surprise? The AP could be hanging out on their report as CNN was unable to confirm the report. Go MSM, go and get to the truths of the matter. The Department of Homeland Security appears not be happy with a suspected leak.

    November 1, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. New Mexico voter

    So this is the best they can do for a November surprise?! Ha. It won't work fellas. Republicans are so dirty! Always have been.... always will be.

    November 1, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. Obama-Junkie, IL

    This is just a bunch of diversionary crap!

    Leave Obama's family and extended family out of National Politics!

    I find it disturbing and maddening that stories that try to portray Obama's family in a "negative, almost racial" tone. All the negative stories that have come out about Obama's family is from his biological Kenyan father's side of the family in which Obama has had a very , very limited exposure to. Remember the stories of Obama's paternal grandmother, paternal half-brother, and now his paternal aunt.

    Why is this getting local and sometimes national attention? Obama was raised by his white Kansan mother and white Kansan grandparents. You don't see any stories (with the emphasis on NEGATIVE) about extended members of Obama's biological Kansan mother's side of the family.

    November 1, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. John

    More Democrat breaking the law stuff. Does DFL stand for Don't Follow Law?

    November 1, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. Paul

    What does Obama know?
    He didn't know about Ayers past.
    He didn't know that the Rev. Wright preached hate.
    He didn't know Alcorn was the biggest player in voter fraud.
    He doesn't know about his aunt.
    For a man that is supposed to have all the answers, his knowledge is very shallow.

    November 1, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. NJVote08

    Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks!

    O/B 08

    November 1, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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