NBC's Curry to Obama's Sister: 'What Void Do You Think You Filled In His Life?'

In a fawning interview with Barack Obama's half-sister Auma Obama on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry lobbed softballs about the President: "...you describe an almost instantaneous connection when you met your brother Barack Obama. Can you describe why, how, you made this instantaneous connection?...What void do you think you filled in his life?"

Citing Auma's new memoir, "And Then Life Happens," Curry pondered: "So I wonder, reading the book, whether you think that filling these gaps, for your brother, about how he knew his father, if you had not been able to do that, if he would be who he is today? If he would have been able to achieve becoming President of the United States?"

In response to that question Auma observed:

I would imagine that it's an important part of being a person and having an identity. So, without that there would probably have always been some void in his life. And if you don't feel complete, sometimes you don't achieve as much as you would.

So, you know, he's a very whole person and I think he's very comfortable with who he is. And you know, he really has a very positive outlook on life. And I think all of that contributes to it. Because he definitely knows who he is. And I hope that I can contributed to him being able to find out who he is in a more complete way.

Curry urged Auma to talk more about how much her brother Barack wanted to know his father: "...could you see in his expression, in his manner, in his questionings, how much he craved, needed, to know who his father was?" Auma replied: "...in telling him about his father, I was also finding out about him as my brother." Curry added: "You told him things he never knew before, he said, things like how your father used to talk about him with pride. And this must have been, to some degree, comforting to your brother."

In April of 2011, weatherman Al Roker conducted a similar gushing interview with the President's other half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, even talking 2012 campaign strategy: "When you look back on the President's campaign of hope do you see that – is it still that same message or has it had to change, do you think?...If people are on the fence, what do you say to them about 2012?"


Here is a full transcript of Curry's April 30 interview with Auma Obama:

8:45AM ET

ANN CURRY: Auma Obama heard stories growing up in Kenya of a younger brother named Barack who lived in America, but she could never have imagined that one day he would become President of the United States. The two met when they were young adults and forged a lasting relationship and she writes about it in her memoir called "And Then Life Happens." Auma Obama, good morning to you.

AUMA OBAMA: Good morning.

CURRY: In this book, which was really a pleasure to read, you write about being neglected, even abandoned, by your father. About feeling not understood by your family. And yet you describe an almost instantaneous connection when you met your brother Barack Obama. Can you describe why, how, you made this instantaneous connection?

OBAMA: I think the main thing is that it's less about abandonment than being misunderstood. And I guess it's got to do with the fact that I was the only girl in a family of men and boys. And when I met my brother, he – we have this instant connection, I was able to talk to him and he really understood the things I was talking about. And I can't explain why, but you know, it was just one of these situations where we met, and it just clicked.

And the funny thing is, when I did come to America to meet him, I initially was afraid that I might not like him as a person because I didn't really know him. I knew about him all my life but I didn't know him. So I had a plan around, you know, what am I going to do if I don't like this person? And there was no question about it. I really felt that I gave it too little time, because I only gave it ten days of spending a month in America, because I was so concerned about not liking him.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "And Then Life Happens"; President Obama's Sister on Life in Kenya & Beyond]

CURRY: And ten days with him, so if you weren't going to like him it wasn't going to go well. And so, it was good that you did. He said about that first encounter in Chicago he said, he wrote, "I knew at that moment somehow that I loved her so naturally, so easily, and fiercely." What void do you think you filled in his life?

OBAMA: I think I gave him his – a part of his family that he didn't have. You know, because a father is an important figure in everybody's life. And everybody searches, even if you're adopted or you didn't know your father, it's part of who you are, your identity. And that was a part of his identity that he needed to get back. And I was blessed to be able to be the person who was able to give him that and to share that with him. And it was for me so special because it was not difficult to do. He was always in our lives. He was always a part of our life. It was just completing the circle by actually meeting him and then just telling him things that he really ought to have known already.

CURRY: When he said to you, "Tell me something about my father," could you see in his expression, in his manner, in his questionings, how much he craved, needed, to know who his father was?

OBAMA: If I said, "Yes, I could" I would be – I can't say that. Because, you know, I just responded to him basically. You know, when he wanted to know, I wanted to tell. Because in telling him about his father, I was also finding out about him as my brother. So I was gaining as well. I was gaining the brother who to me in that instant was so special, and I was so close to, but I really didn't know him that well. So in our conversations we also getting to know each other. It was like a holding of hands and walking this walk together. Where we had been separate all this time. So for me was a wonderful experience, and I think it was great, also, for us together to understand our father.

CURRY: You told him things he never knew before, he said, things like how your father used to talk about him.

OBAMA: A lot.

CURRY: With pride. And this must have been, to some degree, comforting to your brother.

OBAMA: Yes. I hope so. I speculate.

CURRY: So I wonder, reading the book, whether you think that filling these gaps, for your brother, about how he knew his father, if you had not been able to do that, if he would be who he is today? If he would have been able to achieve becoming President of the United States?

OBAMA: To be honest, it's a difficult question for me to answer. Because that's something that he went through. That's what his experience was, and whether that was a need that he had in order to be more, or to prove himself, or to achieve more, it's a difficult question for me to answer. But I would imagine that it's an important part of being a person and having an identity. So, without that there would probably have always been some void in his life. And if you don't feel complete, sometimes you don't achieve as much as you would.

So, you know, he's a very whole person and I think he's very comfortable with who he is. And you know, he really has a very positive outlook on life. And I think all of that contributes to it. Because he definitely knows who he is. And I hope that I can contributed to him being able to find out who he is in a more complete way.

CURRY: Well, the book is illuminating. I wish we had more time but we've run out of time. Auma Obama, it's a pleasure to meet you and thank you so much for joining us here this morning.

OBAMA: Thank you for having me.

CURRY: And the book is called, "And Then Life Happens."

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC