December 5th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
9 months ago

Obama lived with Kenyan uncle prior to law school, White House says

Update 7:12 p.m. ET, 12/6/2013

(CNN) - The White House clarified Thursday that President Barack Obama did live with his Kenyan uncle in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a "brief period of time" before attending Harvard Law School in the 1980s after previously saying there was no record of the two ever meeting.

The clarification comes amid GOP criticism over the issue of Obama’s honesty and trustworthiness, two personal traits the president has taken a hit on in recent polls.

Obama apologizes for health coverage cancellations due to Obamacare

Onyango Okech Obama, President Obama's uncle, was granted permission Tuesday by a federal immigration judge to stay in the United States, where he has lived illegally for the past five decades. In his testimony before the judge, Obama's uncle mentioned that then-student Obama had stayed with him for three weeks after he was accepted into law school.

The White House was asked about their relationship in 2011 at which time the administration said there was no record of the President and Onyango Okech Obama having ever met. Carney retracted that information Thursday saying that the President himself had never been consulted about their relationship.

"Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the President's book, and there was no evidence that they had met. And that was what was conveyed. Nobody spoke to the President," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"When Omar Obama said the other day and there were reports that he had said the other day that President Obama, back when he was a law school student, had stayed with him in Cambridge, I thought it was the right thing to do to go ask him."

Carney continued: "Nobody had asked him in the past, and the President said that he in fact had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school and that he stayed with him for a brief period of time until his, the President's, apartment was ready."

Carney said after that period, Obama and his uncle "saw each other once every few months while the President was in Cambridge" but eventually "fell out of touch."

The White House said they had no record that the President had met his relative after his uncle was arrested for drunk driving in 2011. The driving violation brought to light Onyango Okech Obama's illegal status, and he was then ordered to regularly check in with immigration.

"The President has not seen Omar Obama in 20 years, and has not spoken with him in roughly 10 years," Carney said, adding that Obama had "absolutely zero" involvement in his relative's deportation case.

Onyango Okech Obama isn't the first of the President's relatives to have issues with immigration status. Onyango Okech Obama's sister, Zeituni Onyango, was granted permission to stay in the United States in 2010 after a six-year-plus legal battle over her status.

While the immigration court was considering Zeituni Onyango's case in 2009, then-White House spokesman Ben Labolt said Obama would stay out of his aunt's immigration case and "the president believes that the case should run its ordinary course."

It seems that Onyango Okech Obama's appearance and mention of his nephew's stay before law school in immigration court earlier this week was what prompted the White House to take measures to correct the record.

The administration's initial denial that the President had met his uncle and subsequent reversal of the record raises speculation that Onyango Okech Obama's court appearances and immigration status first led the White House to distance the President from the controversy and deliver misleading information.

The President is already facing questions about his credibility after technological issues and reports of canceled insurance plans plagued the recent rollout of parts of Obamacare, the sweeping healthcare reform law passed in his first term. A CNN/ORC International survey released last month indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way.

The reversal over details of Obama's relationship with his uncle could prove to be another detriment to Obama's credibility with the public.

Obama: People do think I'm trustworthy

And Republicans say the White House's change of story indicates a lack of trustworthiness in the President.

"It just goes back to this thing of the White House not being completely forthright with facts with the public. It's what's contributed to his trustworthiness numbers going way down," said Republican Strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro said Friday.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Obama has been "lying to the American people."

"He's been exposed. And these little lies, like, you know, lying about whether you met someone or not that's been significant in your life - listen, those are big things because it goes to the character of the person that you're dealing with," he said Thursday on Fox News.

"And President Obama is proving himself not to be trustworthy on the small things and now the very big things."

Obama attended Harvard Law School beginning in 1988 when he was 28 after serving as a community organizer in Chicago.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (1,714 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Grow up children. The man is the President. Agree or disagree with the positions he has on any matter, but grasping at straws on where a politician lives, what they wear, who they had dinner with, etc is being ridiculous. Everyone who has ever been President did the job for the reason of loving our country and trying to make it a better place, some policies helped, some failed, but the intent was for the better good of the United States.

    December 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. Ed

    Wow, this is really terrible. OMG, how will Obama overcome this startling revelation? Could this be the straw that broke the empeachment camel's back? Big Deal!

    December 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. corpsman

    Why do the President's detractors imagine that staying with his uncle for a whopping three weeks is some kind of conspiracy? Too bad the staff got it wrong, and it should have been corrected earlier, but there is no crisis here.

    December 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Marc

    Yes Tom in VA, a politician that lies is a completely new thing to us. man people are stupid.

    December 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Person of Interest

    Bring on the Birthers.

    December 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    The US population has picked political sides like they've picked their favorite sports teams. They feel personally invested in the wins and loses, argue to the death to defend their team, defend the indefensible to win the argument, and stand up for players on their team even when they know they are guilty. Like having a guy that you love when he's on your team, but hate him when he's on the other team. Let's just be real at this point....most people have no integrity or morals these days. Some even feel that the ends justify the means for what they want. We are no longer picking public servants based or arguing the issues based on their merits...we're just showing up to support the team that was placed on the field by the general manager. As long as he's wearing our uniform...we like him. I would honestly love to see candidates and issues voted for based on the facts alone without any affiliation or party...totally anonymous to see what people really would support. Like when they ask people on the street what they think about candidate x's policy, but it's actually candidate y's and they just don't know it. Too bad it's totally impractical...

    December 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. northerstar

    It is amazing how LITTLE Obama is involved in ANYTHING ! Even something as specific about who he lived with and something that only HE would have knowledge of; NO ONE in his administration apparently bothered to ask him or tell him about the inquiry. I hope that in the event of a fire, someone would let him know so he could exit the building. This is ridiculous !

    December 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Wallaceboy

    What kind of guy has an uncle up the road and never reaches out. Wouldn't it be nice to check in on him and make sure all is ok? The truth is that all is political to this guy. If keeping his uncle off of the Christmas card list is politically better then so be it. To all of you that love this guy, you must admit he has zero character. He writes a book about his father (the one that deserted him) but never contacts his fathers brother? It may be one thing to hate all conservatives or to demonize George Bush but why are you so blind to this guy's massive faults. An empty suit developed by the democratic machine.

    December 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Al

    And yet another lie. And why did the foolish vote for this liar? Why did the voters allow themselves to be fooled?

    December 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Scorpio61

    Zeke83
    This is the most uninformed, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative, contriving, gaming, underhanded, corrupt, hypocritical, sleezy, codependent, enabling, law breaking, divisive, damaging, administration we have ever had! ..........................So what are trying to say.lol

    December 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. MSFromNY

    Do you really expect the commander in chief to personally proof read every bit of TRIVIAL information that is circulating in the media or given out by the WH staff about him or should he run the country? Moreover when you are just 26 years old and not born into a Political family, you are not exactly planning every action with the thought that one day you could be the president and you have to careful about what the people of media might construe it to be.

    December 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. me

    Oh my God, nooooo... Obama lived with his uncle for a bit... if it weren't for the entertainment I derive from reading the simple minded comments from right wingers on this page, I would have fallen asleep... I feel so foolish voting for the man who, while certainly having his share of missteps, righted the ship that George Bush claimed victory on as it was sailing full steam into a rock outcrop... who is the foolish one??? Yup, still those right wing, hate filled crybabies... thanks again for the laughs you imbeciles... you make more noise about a man living with his uncle than you do about a man that sent thousands of American men and women to their deaths for nothing...

    December 6, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. Larry

    Wait for it! Soon Obama's autobiography will be coming out, and it'll be in a handy ring binder, so you can change the pages as the truth comes out...

    December 6, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. jack

    All the Obama haters will be on here complaining that Obama lied about living with his uncle and will want him to be impeached for it. They will want his uncle deported to Kenya. They have nothing better to do with their low life except judge others when they should be having a hard look in the mirror and start judging themselves.

    December 6, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. chas

    Oh come on. What about all the Bush lies ? Where should we start, draft dodging, drunk driving cover ups, Sorry this is not a big deal. Who wouldn't lie about bunking with this guy.

    December 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. ryanwin

    Sheesh, it's like George Costanza got elected.

    Jerry: "I know what you're problem is, you're a compulsive liar."

    George: "No, I'm not."

    December 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  17. Denise

    At what point can "impeachment" kick in?

    December 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  18. jimmyva18

    Another Day, Another Obozo and Jay Carney lie. How much of this are the American People going to take before we throw this DECEITFUL LIAR out of the WH? Arise, Patriots.

    December 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  19. Heisenberg

    His uncle voted for him twice also ;)

    December 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  20. The REAL TRUTH...

    @Anonymous – Grow up children. The man is the President. Agree or disagree with the positions he has on any matter, but grasping at straws on where a politician lives, what they wear, who they had dinner with, etc is being ridiculous. Everyone who has ever been President did the job for the reason of loving our country and trying to make it a better place, some policies helped, some failed, but the intent was for the better good of the United States.
    --------------------------–
    Absolutely.. so true. but you'll never convince the brainwashed sycophant lemmings of that.. they have no need of facts, truth or even reality.. they have their own version/beliefs they have been fed, and they're sticking to those beliefs, not matter how wrong, skewed or misinformed they may be.

    December 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  21. stevet

    Another lie !!!!

    December 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  22. Mike in SS

    Different lie, different day, same POTUS. Go figure. There still are some who thinks this man not only walks on water, but most likely perfected it too.

    December 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. Republican who supports President Obama

    Who cares about who he lived with! We are a country of immigrants. What is the difference if he lived with his uncle or someone else? Because the uncle is from another country could this mean our President has to hide this or ignore his family roots? Did we forgor that he also has Caucasian roots? Why don't we have a problem with that? No – they conservatives forget about that.

    Did we care where other past Presidents lived every day of their lives from the moment of their birth and with whom they lived with?

    It is the racist Conservatives who keep chasing this just to find ANY little scrap information to justify their misguided cause. Get over it – He is the President and you cannot take it away.... EVER!!!!! Period.

    December 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Darren

    The lies keep on getting uncovered. Granted this is a trivial one but just more to point to this guy should not be trusted. BUT wait – hes dodging this again by saying no one actually ever asked him. Man thus guys is responsible for nothing his administration does.

    December 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. ryanwin

    What a contrast with Nelson Mandela, who would rather stay in prison than lie.

    December 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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