I’d never heard of this issue before, but at Free Republic, at least one commenter says that “Free Granny Madelyn Dunham” should be a T-shirt slogan.
This controversy seems to be mostly generated by this Newsmax.com report written by Andy Martin, who claims that Barack Obama is keeping his grandmother imprisoned because she is white:

….the “segregation” of Madelyn Dunham, Obama’s white grandmother, and only real grandmother, has to be one of the cruelest and most mendacious political kidnappings this nation has ever seen.
Mrs. Dunham lives alone in the same apartment where she has lived for many years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume she is not incapacitated or an invalid.
Granny Dunham told the New York Times she was not well enough to speak, but in reality the Obama campaign maintains Stalinist “control” over potential interviewees. Obama’s minions tried to control access to Obama’s friend who was recently released from prison. Since he became a candidate for U.S. Senator, Obama has locked his white relative away in his racist closet.
Madelyn Dunham raised Barry Obama. It was probably her money that got him admitted to the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii and paid his fees. Her efforts were formative, perhaps even more so than those of Obama’s mother Ann, Madelyn’s daughter. And yet Madelyn is being hidden away.
All because she is white and Barry Obama is a “black” candidate for president.
What a lie. What hypocrisy. What cowardice. And this man wants to sit in the Oval Office?

This surprised me a bit, because I thought the fact that Obama had a white mother was common knowledge. Why, then, would Obama hide the fact that he had a white grandmother?
Is he really hiding that? Or is it the overactive imagination of the writer?
It’s probably fair to point out that according to CBS News, the grandmother simply refuses to talk to reporters, citing poor health:

Obama’s family is already insulating itself. “I am not giving any interviews,” Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, curtly interjected when a reporter phoned. “I am in poor health.”
The number at Dunham’s apartment in a nondescript Honolulu high rise has not changed in more than a quarter-century. It is the same one that a young Obama wrote in the yearbook of a petite black-haired beauty named Kelli Furushima — the object of his high school crush.
She wistfully showed a reporter the love note Obama wrote in June 1979.

If that report is correct, I don’t see much evidence of what Martin calls “Stalinist ‘control’ over potential interviewees.”
What should reporters do? Knock on her door all the time and camp out in front of her place?
The quest to discover Obama’s background is not new to the Andy Martin, who’s spent years pushing for an investigation. Not only are Obama’s white ancestors being kept in the closet (claims Martin), but so are his black ancestors:

I believe Obama’s secret shame at his family history of rape, murder and arson is what actualizes him. Our research is not yet complete. We are seeking to examine British colonial records. Our investigation to date has drawn on information on three continents.
“And what about Obama’s beloved Kenyan brothers and sisters? None of his family was invited to Boston to share his prominence. Are his relatives being kept in the closet? Where are they? More secrecy, more prevarication.

Who knew?
But contrast that (2004) claim about the closeted Kenyan relatives with yesterday’s Newsmax report:

She [grandmother Dunham] is offended that Obambi shamelessly highlights his black relatives in Kenya and, equally shamelessly, pretends his white relatives in Hawaii who actually raised him do not exist. It would hurt me.

So, the Kenyans were once closeted, and now shamelessly highlighted?
Something doesn’t sound quite right.
While it’s not directly relevant to his claims about Obama, Martin recently took issue with the Wall Street Journal for siding with Israel:

Palestinians have been all too patient and all too peaceful in dealing with forty years of Israeli occupation. Fighting Israeli occupation is, to repeat, a human right, and an obligation of every human being.

I’m a human being. Does that mean fighting Israel is my obligation?
Yes. And apparently because the Wall Street Journal is an Israeli agent, we are all under Israeli occupation!

….peace will never come as long as American media such as the WSJ abandon all reason and objectivity and act as agents for the Israeli regime. We are as much under occupation as the Palestinians and Iraqis.
Ironically, your support for Israel is self-destructive and counterproductive. By encouraging war and occupation and a miasma of lies from the Israeli imperialists you undermine America’s economy and our role in the world. Your support for war in Iraq has produced bitter fruit for our nation and our future role in the world.
The American people are fed up with Israel and Israeli demands for unconditional American support. George Bush put Palestinian freedom fighters on trial in Chicago and Tampa, and both times federal court juries rejected the Justice Department’s Israeli-inspired lies. What does that tell you?

Well, at least “the American people” have a fearless spokesman.
To be fair, Martin seems to have mellowed with age. Back in the days when he was running for office, he took a somewhat harder line:

Martin also has expressed anti-Semitic attitudes in the past. When he ran for Congress in Connecticut in 1986, the name of his congressional campaign committee included the phrase “to exterminate Jew power in America,” Federal Election Commission records show.
In a 1983 personal bankruptcy case, he referred to a federal bankruptcy judge as a “crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”
In a related court filing in the case, he also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
“I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did, when Jew survivors are operating as a wolf pack to steal my property,” Martin wrote in an April 21, 1983, personal bankruptcy proceeding.
In 1973, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to allow Martin admission to the bar. The court’s decision noted that Martin, a University of Illinois law school graduate who was previously known by the name Anthony R. Martin-Trigona, had a Selective Service record that showed he had a “moderately-severe character defect manifested by well documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.”
Still, the court noted that “issues raised as to [Martin’s] mental stability” did not need to be considered in light of other matters it cited in deciding that Martin lacked the qualities of “responsibility, candor, fairness, self-restraint, objectivity and respect for the judicial system” required for the administration of justice.
Among issues the high court cited in denying his law license were Martin’s criticism of members of a bar review panel as “emotionally ill” and “scum,” his filing of a petition asking that a parking violation be lifted because it was “entered by an insane judge” and his description of an attorney as “shaking and tottering and drooling like an idiot,” according to court records.

There’s more, but I think the above is enough to raise questions about the credibility of Newsmax’s source.
In logic, of course, none of this makes the story about Obama’s imprisoned grandmother wrong.
Just color me skeptical.
MORE: Andy Martin also thinks Obama should apologize for the fact that his ancestors once owned slaves:

Mr. Obama, my family did not own slaves. Yours did. Most Americans’ have no family links to slavery. Yours does. Yours, not ours.
Bill Clinton wanted to “share our pain.” You want us to “share your shame.” No thanks. Speak for yourself, Barry. That’s part of your incredibly tortured family history, and your own tortured psyche, not “ours.”
Amazingly, it took the exposure of his slave-owning family history for Obama to even acknowledge that half of his family history came from white racists who waged war against the United States.
And Obama wants “African-Americans” to support his candidacy? His ancestors sought to continue enslaving legitimate African-Americans. Massa Obama. You are the living embodiment of chutzpah. Just ask your friends at AIPAC what that means.

His friends at AIPAC?
I’m afraid it may be time for the tinfoil hat…
MORE: Andy Martin on Rachel Corrie:

Rachel Corrie’s memory, our memory of her, stands as a testimony that we have not forgotten who are the occupiers and who are the occupied. We have not forgotten who gloats and preens about “nuclear weapons” and “superpower” status. As a devoted Christian, I hear the Torah, the “Old Testament,” read in church every Sunday. I am left to wonder how the world’s first monotheistic religion, one of the world’s great religions, has been reduced to the rubble of Israeli triumphalism.
Then I remember that someone had to consciously murder, consciously kill, Rachel Corrie. And then I understand.

The conservative Republican tent is larger than I thought.
MORE: A picture of the “imprisoned” grandmother has been found. (Not that I’d been looking for it, but some people obviously care.)
Was there a coverup of granny’s race? If so, I’d say it failed.
(Picture link found here.)
AND MORE: The Democratic Party website calls Andy Martin a “typical Republican” who “hates the Latinos, believes the Jews are running the nation and wants us all to speak English” as well as a “racist, egotistical, arrogant Media whore who is addicted to bring lawsuits.”
I’m sorry, but calling this man a “typical Republican” doesn’t set well with me.
However, right at the bottom of the website state it states, “Paid for by the Democratic National Committee — 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC 20003.”
I guess this gives the Republican Party the right to call Fred Phelps a “typical Democrat.”
MORE: In case everything else he throws at Barack Obama fails, Andy Martin has filed a complaint with the Illinois State Bar asking that Obama be investigated for non-disclosure of (I am not kidding) unpaid parking tickets in 1991.
Obviously, from that point on, one thing led to another in his career in crime — until finally he imprisoned his own grandma!
It just demonstrates the truth of the “slippery slope” theory.
I’m sorry, but I’ve spent enough time defending Barack Obama for one day. I’ll never vote for the man, but after all, anyone who loves crocodiles can’t be all bad.
UPDATE (03/31/07): Newsmax is now linking the above picture from the Sun Sentinel, and pointing out that the Sun Times has misidentified Obama’s black grandmother as “Madelyn Dunham” (which they clearly have). The incorrect (quite possibly lying) caption reads thusly:

Barack Obama with his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, in Africa in 2004. Courtesy of the Obama family

Yes, but who wrote the caption? I think it is eminently fair to inquire whether this was a mistake or a deliberate lie — and determine whether the Sun Times or the Obama campaign was responsible.
Newsmax also claims they’ve been deluged with complaints about Andy Martin’s story, but that the fault is with the Sun Times:

Since publishing Martin’s story, NewsMax has been deluged by pro-Obama bloggers who claim Martin’s report is “racist,” “inaccurate” or just “totally wrong.”
Many direct our attention to a photo that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times (See Photo Here), purportedly showing Obama with a black woman who is identified by the Times as Madelyn Dunham, Obama’s grandmother.
In fact, the Sun-Times, not NewsMax or Martin, is in error. The woman pictured on the Sun-Times Web site is not Madelyn Dunham, but Obama’s Kenyan grandmother Sarah Hussein Obama.
Readers who are troubled by the coverage of Obama’s grandmothers would do better to send their complaints to the Sun-Times rather than NewsMax.

Yes, of course the Sun Times is in error. (And the Sun Sentinel was not.) But what has that to do with whether Andy Martin is in error about the grandmother being imprisoned by Obama?
Isn’t it possible that when she said didn’t want to talk to the press, she might have meant it? Or is she not allowed to refuse to talk? Seeing that there’s no question about her race, I’m wondering precisely what needs to be confirmed.
MORE: Considering the subject, I think it’s fair to display the pictures in question.
Here’s a screenshot of the Sun Times’s mis-captioned photo:
suntimesobama.JPG
And here’s the 2004 photo of Obama with his actual grandparents:
ObamaGramps.jpg
CAPTION:

Barack Obama poses at Columbia University in New York City during a visit by his grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham.
(Photo courtesy of Maya Soetoro-Ng)
Mar 23, 2007

And finally, here’s Obama shown with his grandparents at his high school graduation:
ObamaGrad.jpg
CAPTION:

At his high school graduation, Barack Obama gets a hug from his grandmother Madelyn as his grandfather Stanley beams. His maternal grandparents raised Obama in Hawaii while his mother was living in Indonesia.
(Photo courtesy of Maya Soetoro-Ng)
Mar 23, 2007

I don’t think being half white is anything to be ashamed of, and I normally wouldn’t be interested in any candidate’s graduation photos. But to some people, race matters!
UPDATE (04/01/07): Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for the link, and welcome all!
I’m glad Glenn thinks Granny should be left alone.
You’d think that outing her as white would be enough. (Except I’m not sure that was what was going on, because I don’t think it really came as news to anyone. It certainly wasn’t news to me.)