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PolitiFact: Trump statement on Obama not being remembered by schoolmates rated 'Pants on Fire'

The statement

"The people that went to school with (Barack Obama), they never saw him, they don't know who he is."

Donald Trump, in a CPAC speech

The ruling

Trump's comment — in a speech where he announced he is "thinking about" running for president — harkens back to an attack line that dogged Obama throughout the 2008 campaign.

We'll start in the middle of Obama's post-secondary education because that's been the nexus of "None-of-his-classmates-knew-him" claims. Obama transferred to Columbia after two years at Occidental College. According to Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Wayne Allen Root — who attended Columbia at the same time — "I don't know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me."

It's true that far fewer classmates have publicly shared recollections of Obama from Columbia, as opposed to other school years.

In a 2005 interview in a Columbia alumni magazine, Obama said he was somewhat involved with the Black Students Organization and participated in anti-apartheid activities, but otherwise didn't socialize much and concentrated on his studies.

Still, several news reports quote recollections of Obama's former roommates and friends there, including one we called.

Cathie Currie, who teaches social psychology at Adelphi University, recalled Obama occasionally playing pickup soccer on the lawn outside the library. She was a graduate student, and Obama was an undergrad.

Currie isn't surprised he was not widely-remembered. He was a transfer student who lived off campus and prioritized time at the library. "My sense of it was that he was keeping a low profile," she said.

As for Obama's time at Occidental and later Harvard Law, dozens of former classmates and teachers have publicly shared their recollections (and photos). Obama was president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review journal, for goodness sake.

And a comprehensive story on Obama's childhood by the Chicago Tribune names — and quotes — more than a dozen former classmates and teachers from grade school and high school.

We rule Trump's statement Pants on Fire.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version and to read other rulings — go to

PolitiFact: Trump statement on Obama not being remembered by schoolmates rated 'Pants on Fire' 02/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 9:55pm]
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