A possible Republican presidential candidate suggested in a radio interview that President Barack Obama’s childhood in Kenya shaped his world-view – even though Mr Obama did not visit Kenya until he was in his 20s.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told a New York radio station on Monday that Mr Obama’s youth led him to resent the West, which he said explains why Mr Obama’s foreign policy differs so greatly from that of his predecessors.
“One thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, (is) very different than the average American,” Mr Huckabee said, pointing to Mr Obama’s decision in 2009 to return a bust of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
He failed to note that the bust was on loan from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who offered it to President George W. Bush in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a symbol of trans-Atlantic solidarity. Mr Huckabee also did not mention that Mr Obama replaced the Oval Office fixture with a bust of one of his American heroes, President Abraham Lincoln.
“The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British,” Mr Huckabee said. “But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather. He probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”
Mr Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was detained in a 1952 uprising against British colonial rule in Kenya. Mr Huckabee said childhood stories of the Mau Mau rebellion would lead President Obama to want to return the bust of Churchill, who ordered a crackdown against that uprising.
Other Mr Huckabee assertions in the interview also departed from reality.
Mr Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a mother from Kansas, and a father from Kenya whom he would barely know. He spent the first five years of his life in Hawaii and then moved with his since-divorced mother and her new husband to Indonesia. At the age of 10, he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents on Oahu until he started his undergraduate degree in Los Angeles and completed it in New York City.
“The first time I came to Kenya was in 1987,” Mr Obama said at the University of Nairobi in 2006. “I had just finished three years of work as a community organiser in low-income neighbourhoods of Chicago, and was about to enrol in law school. My sister, Auma, was teaching that year at this university, and so I came to stay with her for a month.”
Many conservative activists believe – and some have unsuccessfully filed lawsuits to prove – that Mr Obama is a Kenyan who does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s citizenship requirement. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last year found 14 per cent of Americans say without prompting that they believe Mr Obama was born in another country. That number rose to 20 per cent when those with no opinion were given that as an option.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Mr Obama posted a copy of his birth certificate on his website to confront persistent rumours. It did little to assuage sceptics who are convinced by internet rumours and conservative talk radio hosts that Mr Obama was raised in his father’s homeland.
Mr Huckabee himself has called these suggestions fringe theories that distract from the serious policy disagreements with Mr Obama. During appearances for his book tour, he dismissed the so-called “birther” ideas.
And on Monday, just a few moments after he asserted Mr Obama’s Kenyan upbringing, Mr Huckabee returned to what had been his standard rhetoric on the question of his birth certificate.
“The only reason I’m not as confident that there’s something about the birth certificate is because I know the Clintons and, believe me, they have lots of investigators out on him, and I’m convinced if there was anything that they could have found on that, they would have found it, and I promise they would have used it,” Mr Huckabee said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned against Mr Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary.
Mr Huckabee’s political action committee did not have an immediate explanation for Mr Huckabee’s comments.