Never missing an opportunity to stoke anti-Obama conspiracy theories, American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios yesterday used the massacre at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, to suggest that President Obama was born in the country and is related to a leading Kenyan political figure:
The implications of this are pretty frightening and of course it’s interesting that this is the country from which our President hails. This is his lineage. We know his cousin Raila Odinga is a Muslim communist. It’s just amazing. I think he’s the Prime Minister right now.
The AFA commentator’s claim that Obama “hails” from Kenya is not the first time she promoted birtherism, and her suggestion that Obama is related to the “Muslim communist” Raila Odinga most likely comes from discredited chain emails. Odinga is Kenya’s former prime minister and is neither a Muslim (he’s an evangelical Christian) nor a communist.
The right-wing rumor mill has claimed that Obama donated to Odinga’s presidential campaign (false), endorsed Odinga’s candidacy (false) and campaigned for him (false). While Odinga has claimed to be Obama’s cousin, they are not biologically related and it is likely that Odinga was simply trying to garner publicity for his campaign.
The myth-busting website Snopes.com found that “no evidence has been offered to document that claim,” noting that Odinga was not the only candidate for president to claim to be Obama’s cousin and that Obama’s uncle denies that they are blood relatives. PolitiFact adds:
“It’s stretched to the point of ridiculousness,” said Joel D. Barkan, political science professor emeritus at the University of Iowa and senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “To my knowledge, they are not first cousins in the normal sense. To my knowledge, there’s absolutely no relationship at all.”
Alex Awiti, a Kenyan postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, says you have to consider the context of when Odinga was speaking, in the middle of a political crisis.
“Raila Odinga was groping all over the place, trying to find some political legitimacy to get on a high pedestal to claim leadership and using Obama was basically going to add some political points,” said Awiti, who lived in Kenya until three years ago. “This is very opportunistic and it should be totally disregarded.”
[Salim] Lone, Odinga’s spokesman, said cousins in the African sense is very different from cousins in the American sense, so they might be distant relatives.