This morning the top question journalists are asking the campaign is how did Obama not know that his aunt — his father’s half-sister from Kenya — was living illegally in Boston in public housing, and had giving illegally to his campaign ($260 in donations that the campaign says they have now returned).
Obama’s Kenyan family is large and far-flung and there are many members the Illinois senator has never even met. But this particular aunt, Zeituni Onyango, makes an appearance in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” and attended his swearing-in to the U.S. Senate. The campaign says the last Obama heard from her was two years ago when she called to tell him she was heading to from Boston**. Onyango’s request for asylum in the U.S. was denied four years ago and she has since illegally overstayed her tourist visa.
Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, said he doesn’t believe the story will affect voters. “He didn’t know what her status was, I think it’s a little odd that anybody does,” Axelrod told TIME as Obama was addressing a crowd of 15,000 in Henderson, Nevada. “I think that the American people are going to be really suspicious of stories like this that break 72 hours before an election. I don’t think they’re going to be deterred by that.”
*Apologies for the initial typo (n sted m – there’s a lot of glare on my screen here in Nevada).
**The campaign tells me that Obama had no idea that she was living in Boston.