Jerome Corsi has jousted lucratively with Barack Obama, tackling the presidential candidate's reputation with a best-selling if factually challenged book that accuses the Senator of, among other things, ties to militant Islam. But Corsi may have gone a little too far into enemy territory when he flew into Kenya, the birthplace of Obama's father. Kenyan immigration officials deported Corsi, they said, over problems with his visa. They made their move before Corsi was scheduled to give a press conference at which he promised to expose secret ties between Obama and Kenyan leaders, as well as a mysterious plot that would be launched should the Democratic nominee win the U.S. election.
Corsi, author of The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, was in Kenya writing dispatches for the website WorldNetDaily at the invitation of Christian missionaries who fear the rise of Islam in Kenya. According to WorldNetDaily, he wanted to answer "lingering questions" about Obama's ties to Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Corsi was detained for about 4 1/2 hours before he was expelled. Immigration officials said the author did not have a proper permit to work in Kenya. But Corsi's publicist, Tim Bueler, told TIME that they were assured their visas and passports were in order. Corsi said he had been upfront about his intentions when he arrived. According to Corsi and Bueler, the author was told that the government had misplaced their immigration cards, which visitors fill out upon arrival at the Nairobi airport. "Dr. Corsi can return to Kenya anytime," said Bueler. "They said our passports were O.K. and our visas were O.K., but they had lost our immigration cards."
Apart from planning to debut his book in Kenya (so far it is unavailable in bookstores here) and provide details about Obama's alleged ties to Odinga, Corsi had said that his press conference would "expose details of deep secret ties between the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and a section of Kenya government leaders, their connection to certain sectoral groups in Kenya and subsequent plot to be executed in Kenya should Senator Obama win the American presidency."
Corsi claims that Obama has strong ties to Odinga, whom the author says fomented Kenya's postelection violence last January in a bid to secure the presidency after the results declared incumbent President Mwai Kibaki the winner. In fact, independent observers disputed Kibaki's victory, and a commission looking into the vote recently determined that Kenya would never know if Odinga or Kibaki truly won. In his writings, Corsi has sought to link the Luos the tribe of Odinga, as well as Obama's ancestors with Muslims and to pit both of them against Kikuyus, the tribe of Kibaki.
"The whole world became very concerned about the violence in Kenya and wanted a negotiated settlement, because they realized the outcome was not what Kenyans voted for," says Odinga adviser Salim Lone, commenting on Corsi's alleged Obama-Odinga-Islamist nexus. "Raila became Prime Minister because of the view that the unrest would continue. Islam had nothing to do with it, and in any event, the violence in Muslim areas was minimal as compared to the others. It has absolutely no basis in fact."
Corsi also claims that Obama was in close contact with Odinga, advising the Kenyan politician on strategy after the results were announced. Lone claims he was there the one time Obama called Odinga, and says it wasn't to talk campaign strategy but rather to demand that the violence end and that Odinga and Kibaki come to a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The Obama campaign had no comment on Corsi's deportation. It has denounced his book in a 41-page rebuttal. If anything, Corsi seems to have seriously underestimated the broad Kenyan support for Obama, whose father was a Kenyan and who has several half-siblings here. While there is animosity between Luos and Kikuyus and the tribes were responsible for much of the postelection violence Obama is immensely popular across ethnic lines in Kenya. Ever since Odinga became Prime Minister in a power-sharing agreement with Kibaki, his own approval ratings have soared.
In a news story on Tuesday announcing Corsi's press conference, the Standard newspaper said the American author's media invitation "makes no secret of the intention to hurl dirt at Obama and undermine his campaign from his ancestral home." Among the scrum of reporters waiting for Corsi outside Kenya's immigration office on Tuesday, one local Kenyan television correspondent was wearing an "Obama '08" T shirt.
Corsi had also planned to deliver a $1,000 check to Obama's half-brother George, who lives in a slum in Nairobi. One Republican ad has accused Obama of abandoning his brother, who was recently reported in Italian Vanity Fair to be living on a dollar a month. But George Obama has repeatedly denied that he said any such thing or that he feels abandoned by Obama. George Obama is currently in school studying to be an auto mechanic and says he has plenty to eat.
"The inclusion of the 'philanthropic' [tour] in Corsi's programme is seen in bad taste and an extension of the campaign to undermine Obama's bid to become the first black American president," the Standard said. In an interview with TIME last week, Obama's half-sister Auma called Corsi's book "blatant lies." "It's reached a point where people will write what they write and people will assume what they want to assume and interpret things the way they want to interpret them, and you can't chase everybody," Auma Obama said. "Otherwise you stop living your own life."