Malik Obama is exactly the kind of man Donald Trump says he'd like to keep out of the United States. He's a Muslim. He comes from Kenya, a country that has been racked by unrest in recent years and has been the target of terrorists from Somalia, who have fashioned themselves as Islamists. He currently has between three and 12 wives - he won't say exactly how many - and, clearly, doesn't adhere to traditional American family values, however you might define them.
But Malik Obama is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and he's the half-brother of the current U.S. president. Most importantly, however, he is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump. At the Trump campaign's request, Malik Obama will be in the audience of Wednesday night's presidential debate in Las Vegas, allowing Trump and his faithful to collectively thumb their nose at President Barack Obama and his favored successor, Hillary Clinton.
It wasn't always this way. Malik Obama was his half-brother's best man when Barack Obama married Michelle. Barack Obama performed the same role at one of Malik's weddings.
When GQ profiled Malik in 2013, Malik Obama claimed that he and his half-brother shared a knack for leadership because it is "all in the genes."
Somewhere between 2013 and this year, though, Malik soured on Barack. Part of the reason for that may be that he feels spurned by his successful and popular half-brother.
"My brother didn't help me at all," Malik told the New York Post, referring to a foundation he started in their shared father's name. "He wanted me to shut it down when I set it up. He hasn't supported me at all."
Inspired by Barack, Malik once tried to run for the position of governor in Siaya, the district of Kenya along the northern shores of Lake Victoria that his father hailed from. He got 1 percent of the vote. In the United States, Malik has worked mostly as an accountant for organizations in and around the Washington, D.C., area, including the American Red Cross, Lockheed Martin and Fannie Mae. He is registered to vote in Maryland. He'll be casting his ballot for Trump.
His reasoning seems to have as much to do with his growing antagonism for his half-brother as it does with Trump's persona and ideology. When he endorsed Trump in July, he said he found the Republican candidate to be honest, and he believed in his campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again." He says he thinks the women who've accused Trump of sexual assault are lying, and questions why they didn't come forward sooner. He also opposes the expansion of LGBT rights, which his half-brother has championed, and was disappointed that the U.S. killed Moammar Gadhafi, whom he considered "one of his best friends."
At heart, however, he and Trump share something deeper: They are habitually opportunistic about limelight.
Malik Obama has relished the media coverage, and his invitation to Wednesday night's presidential debate has only gained him more of it. Trump, meanwhile, is using invitations to the debates for their shock value. To the last one, he invited four women who accused Hillary Clinton's husband of sexual impropriety as a way of distracting from similar allegations against himself, if not to cast aspersions on Hillary Clinton for Bill Clinton's actions. Trump also played up how Clinton had treated her husband's accusers harshly, while purporting to stand for women's rights.
Malik is likely the only member of the extended Obama family who supports Trump. Obama is wildly popular in Kenya. Said Obama, Malik and Barack's uncle, told The Washington Post that "America needs someone who is going to bring people and cultures together, and that is not what Donald Trump stands for."
The American president is nonplussed about the headlines his half-brother has been grabbing.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president hasn't spent "a lot of time" considering Trump's invitation to his half-brother. Earnest said the two don't have much of a relationship. The president has said that they talk about once a year, at most, these days. One can only imagine how the next conversation will go.
Max Bearak writes about foreign affairs for the Washington Post. Previously, he reported from South Asia for the New York Times and others.