Kenya detains author of anti-Obama book

Times Staff Writer

The American author of a controversial book attacking Barack Obama was detained Tuesday by the other Obama nation.

Jerome Corsi, author of “The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” was picked up by Kenyan authorities shortly before he planned to hold a news conference to promote his book, which has widely been denounced in the U.S. for repeating discredited rumors about the Democratic presidential nominee’s background and upbringing.

Corsi later boarded a plane leaving the country, Kenyan police and his publicist said, amid questions about whether he went voluntarily or under duress.

Obama, whose father was Kenyan and mother was American, is wildly popular in this East African nation, which embraces the senator from Illinois as a native son.

Kenyan authorities accused Corsi of failing to obtain the proper visa needed to work in the country.


“His papers were not in order,” Immigration Ministry spokesman Elias Njeru said. “He came in with a tourist visa but had to do business. So his papers were on the wrong side of the law.”

Corsi could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Though local media reported that Corsi was being deported, a police spokesman said he was permitted to leave voluntarily.

“It never reached [deportation] because he opted to leave the country,” police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

But Peter Mbae, Corsi’s Kenyan publicist, said that although the author had always planned to leave Tuesday evening, he still viewed his departure as forced.

“They treated him like a criminal,” Mbae said.

He said Corsi arrived in the country last week and had been “researching connections between Obama and [Prime Minister Raila] Odinga.”

Corsi was also planning a publicity event in which he was to give $1,000 to one of Obama’s impoverished relatives. He was detained at a downtown hotel by immigration officials shortly before the news conference was to start.

“The bottom line is that the Kenyan government didn’t want him addressing the press,” Mbae said. “They didn’t want to be seen as condoning a smear campaign against Obama.”

Among other things, Corsi, who wrote a similar attack against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry, repeats false claims that Obama was raised as a Muslim. His book also claims that Obama gave Odinga $1 million for the Kenyan’s 2007 presidential campaign. Both the Obama and Odinga camps have dismissed the rumor, which was based on a bogus e-mail circulated this year.

Corsi’s troubles are likely to fuel sales of his book, though many Kenyans are reacting negatively to it.

Said one Nairobi book vendor: “I’ve sold a few copies, but for us as Kenyans, I guess it’s a bit sensitive.”