President Obama's Half Brother Backs Out of Interview With Dinesh D'Souza Over Indictment (Exclusive)
Dinesh D'Souza thought he had a blockbuster interview set up with Mark Obama Ndesandjo that was to appear in his upcoming film, America, but President Obama's half brother has pulled out following the conservative filmmaker's federal indictment on charges that he violated campaign finance laws, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
It would have been the second time D'Souza snagged an in-person interview with of one of Obama's half brothers; previously, he spoke to George Obama, and video of that interview was used in D'Souza's first film, the surprise hit documentary 2016: Obama's America.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, America producer Gerald Molen, liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz and others have accused federal authorities of selectively prosecuting D'Souza, whose trial begins Tuesday in New York. The canceled interview may be more fodder for critics who argue the indictment was an attempt by the Obama administration to stifle the filmmaker.
According to those familiar with the discussions, Molen first contacted Ndesandjo on Jan. 17. After a few more emails and letters, Molen and D'Souza spoke to Ndesandjo by phone and agreed that an on-the-record interview would take place either in the U.S. or in China, where the president's half-brother lives. But in February, a representative for Ndesandjo canceled via email.
"Upon reconsideration, Mark has decided it would not be appropriate to join your project while the Federal investigation of Mr. D'Souza is ongoing," read the email, obtained by THR.
Ndesandjo is the son of Barack Obama Sr. and a Harvard woman named Ruth Baker, who later married a man with the surname Ndesandjo. In his book, Dreams From My Father, the president briefly writes of a couple of visits in 1987 with his half brother, who at the time was a Stanford student studying physics, though their meetings took place in Kenya. Ndesandjo did not share the president's admiration for their father nor his romantic view of Africa, according to the book.
"I made a decision not to think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife or children," Ndesandjo told the future president, according to the book.
When Obama asked his half brother if it bothered him to be "numb" about their father, Ndesandjo responded: "Other things move me. Beethoven's symphonies. Shakespeare's sonnets. I know it's not what an African is supposed to care about. But who's to tell me what I should and shouldn't care about?"
THR reached out to Molen, who also produced 2016 and won a best-picture Oscar for Schindler's List, to confirm the cancellation of D'Souza's planned interview with Ndesandjo, and the producer said in an email: "Mark is more than just a brother of the president — he's a living example of the importance of America and the attractiveness of entrepreneurial capitalism. … We were looking forward to hearing a different Obama message from a different Obama, but it was not allowed to happen."
D'Souza was indicted for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to a friend who was running for a U.S. Senate seat in New York. He has pleaded not guilty. While insiders say the indictment has made the making of America more difficult — in ways beyond Ndesandjo's canceled interview — Lionsgate says it will release the movie wide on July 2, right on schedule.
In his email to THR, Molen also weighed in on D'Souza's arrest and next week's scheduled trial.
"Obama and the progressive movement have created an atmosphere of 'they disagree with us ... get them!' We see this for what it is, political intimidation," the producer said. "America deserves better. The charges against Dinesh should be dropped ... now."
THR has reached out to the White House for comment.