May 28th, 2008
08:45 AM ET
13 years ago

RNC hits Obama over Auschwitz claim, Obama camp responds


Watch Obama discuss his Pennsylvania primary loss on CNN Radio Wednesday.

(CNN) — The Republican National Committee accused Barack Obama Tuesday of a lack of judgment after the Illinois senator mistakenly said that his uncle helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz while serving in the American military during World War II.

In fact, that concentration camp was liberated by Soviet soldiers in 1945.

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton released a statement later Tuesday clarifying the remarks, saying the Illinois senator meant to refer to the Buchenwald camp, which American soldiers did liberate. Obama was also apparently referring to his great uncle, Charles Payne.

“Senator Obama’s family is proud of the service of his grandfather and uncles in World War II – especially the fact that his great uncle was a part of liberating one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald. Yesterday he mistakenly referred to Auschwitz instead of Buchenwald in telling of his personal experience of a soldier in his family who served heroically,” Burton said.

In a statement released earlier Tuesday, Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said Obama's comments "raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief."

Obama's comments came Monday during a question and answer session after a Las Cruces, New Mexico speech marking Memorial Day. The Illinois senator was calling for better care for veterans who experience post-traumatic stress syndrome when he made the reference.

"I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps and the story in our family was is that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months," Obama said. "Now obviously something had really affected him deeply but at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain."

Payne, a brother of Obama's grandmother, served in the 89th Infantry Division that liberated one of the subcamps of Buchenwald, according to the Obama campaign.

(Updates with Obama response)

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Jake

    OK liberals, let's pull our troops out and just sit back and wait for another terrorists attack on American soil. Then after that we will send troops back and start all over again. Sounds like a plan to me.

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. A J in Fla

    I'm sure that Mr.Obama also helped Mr. Gore to invente the Internet.....!!!!!!!

    Way to go Democrats...!!!!!!

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Jim

    Obama continually lies but people don't seem to really mind. I guess that is what this country has come to expect. Sad, sad, sad!

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. Nikole

    He said "one of the first of American troops to liberate concetration camps" And so he should concede that he should have left out the reference to Auschwitz.
    Moving right along.

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. amber

    He never said that his grandfather did anything.
    He said it was his UNCLE, he does not have an uncle.

    I saw the video and that is what he said..UNCLE liberated Auschwitz, and UH wrong because the Soviets did.

    So he LIED

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. obamacrat

    Wow RNC you really got him now! Just the smoking gun you were looking for. I wouldn't be surprised if Obama drops out of the race tonight. NOT!

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. Awful

    HA HA
    When McCain messes up Shiite and Sunni, Obama nuts say he's too old....
    Clinton talks about coming under sniper fire and Obama nuts call her crazy....
    How could either of these people be president….Right????

    Obama talks about his non-existent Uncle going to where NO US troops went....and Obama Nuts say????????
    "o he just mispoke or why is this a big deal"
    Good job guys

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. The Independent Navy Corpsman

    Who cares! The republicans are responsible for the Iraq and Afghanistan Occupation and the crappy economy mostly do to increased oil prices! This is bullcrap we need a democrat in the White House. After the final states vote in June we need to unify the party.

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. eddie

    Obama is an joke. Hillary is the real one.

    May 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. HSNP

    Obama the liar!!!

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. John

    Obama seems like such a confused freshman.

    Come on , debate Hillary chicken.! LOL He's been hiding from that ever since she spanked him at a forum in which the moderators weren't cushioning him.

    She can not be his running mate...she's just too superior.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Daniel M, El Paso, TX

    He probably helped liberate one... He probably just named the wrong one lol

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. Jordan

    Rachael, why do you find the comment so offensive ? If you are so easily offensive maybe you should avoid all public discourse. At the least, stay off this blog. That way you will avoid your sensibilities being aroused.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. Jon

    Obama is a LIAR. Why can't you see that he stands for nothing. LIES, LIES, LIES. I am a Veteran of the Iraqi War and how dare he use lies to get personal gain. What a scum bag. Go ahead and vote for him, remember brainless wonder, you get what you ask for and he surley is Change for the bad.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. Georgia

    It demeans John McCain, a solid American, to allow his campaign to engage in this nonsense. Take on Obama like a man..if you win, hats off...if you lose, at least you ran the race the right way. It is so obvious that the establishment is scared of Obama, they are reaching. As for lack of experience, Bush's multiple business failures and C average in college seemed to prepare him well enough for the job.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  16. R.T.

    Easy answer. His uncle must have been a communist in the Soviet Army since they liberated that camp. Would certainly explain his nephew Barack's political leanings.

    And you guys poke fun at Hillary for "misspeaking"? This guy can't even get his family history right.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. Ann T

    CNN is reporting that Obama was referring to a "GREAT" uncle and that he got the name of the camp wrong. I forgot the name of the camp but it was in Germany. I'm sure Obama himself will comment.

    I love the straw grasping though on the NEOS part. ha ha

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  18. Chuck R

    Well Obama was under sniper fire at the time.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. Michael Ray Thompson

    Whoa! Be careful, RNC. The media will label you as an outright racist if you criticize Obama. He may be an idiot, but everything negative you say about him will be viewed as a racial slur Good luck, John McCain .

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. Jennifer from Atlanta

    According to CNN Obama made a mistake; it was his great uncle and he cited the wrong camp but the story is true. After months of campaigning its understandable... much more believable than an outright lie about landing under and ducking Bosnian sniper fire.

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. MI voter

    Oh, come on. Obama tells a story that's basically true about something that happened BEFORE he was born and McCain calls him out on it when McCain cannot even get the Sunni and Shia straight while he's spouting his rhetoric IN Iraq?

    It is so laughable, except it is so sad – especially since there are obviously so many Hillary sheep out there bleating how they'll vote for this maniac if Clinton doesn't win the Democratic nomination!!

    McCain is a bitter, cranky old man who presumes to know what is best for us all but is surely STLL fighting the Vietnam war in his mind – the whole "we'll never surrender" and "we won't leave without victory and honor" sounds like he's trying to make up for how we "cut and run" there.

    Has someone checked this guy for PTSD? Or Alzheimer's?

    May 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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