December 5th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
4 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. betterdays

    Jay Carney: "Last time we just made up a politically expedient answer, but now we're telling the truth."

    December 6, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  2. Bigdoglv

    All CYA and no leadership. All we hear is what they want us to hear. Truth be damned.

    December 6, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  3. Big Joe

    "The White House clarified..."

    Since when does the word "clarified" mean "admitted once again to lying about something that President Obama previously did or said?" There is a psychiatric term for this type of behavior: "pathological liar." I'm kind of starting to feel really sorry for Jay Carney, who has to stand out in front of all of this every day. Well, almost feeling sorry for him. If I were him, I'd resign.

    December 6, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  4. John

    It's not a big deal except the president keeps on telling lies.

    December 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. Chris

    The only things transparent about this administration are their lies.

    December 6, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. Ardie

    People are so consumed with the Prez and EVERY little thing he does. This Country oppressed a group of people for 400 hundred years with lies so you will never have room to say anything about anyone lying.

    December 6, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. rosethornne

    So what?

    December 6, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  8. Lily

    Poor Carney. If he tried to spin anymore, I think he would just collapse. What a liar this prez has turned out to be.

    December 6, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  9. disanitnodicos

    What was the purpose of the lie? What was he covering up? There's more to this story. Just wait for it all to come out.

    December 6, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. Quackers

    Obama is a BIG LIAR! He lies about everything. He will be caught in more lies and his day of reckoning will come. LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!

    December 6, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. Walter

    A reversal? That's what the rest of us calling "finally telling the truth" or "correcting his LIE," right?

    December 6, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. HUH?

    Liar. Pathological, narcissistic, incompetent,inept, socialistic LIAR!

    December 6, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. rad666

    Will all of Obama's Kenya kin move to the US now?

    December 6, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  14. Walter

    If you liked me not living with my uncle, you can keep me not living with my uncle?

    December 6, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. aubrie

    the president's sense of family is staggering.... and we expect him to be sympathetic to the American people? You can tell a lot about a person by the way they interact with their family.

    December 6, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. jdray

    Is there anything this man has not lied about?

    December 6, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. debbi

    And if you believe that...I've got all manner of bridges up for sale

    December 6, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. Padraig

    I voted for President Obama, and given the choice between Obama and Willard, I would vote for him again. But I would be a liar if I said I wasn't disappointed. Drone killings, the treatment of Bradley Manning, way too much compromise with the Greed Over People party and a general lack of candor. But I will NOT stay home when the next elections happen, and I will never vote Republican or throw my vote away on a third party with no chance of winning. I love my country too much to trust it to a regressive.

    December 6, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. MIchael

    MORE LIES, how many more does it take before he is impeached.

    December 6, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  20. Trudi

    Another lie exposed.

    December 6, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  21. Joe

    Most of you people posting here voted for Obama. You asked for this failure.

    December 6, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  22. Patti

    When he finally leaves office, we will find out the truth. He was not born in the USA. But they probably never consulted w/him on that either. Complete liar.

    December 6, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. deee510

    What the hell does this have to do with anything? Lol no news so lets make an irrelevant story about Obama. Is it because the uncle is African? would it be a story if he lived with his uncle from Kansas.

    December 6, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. Msswiss

    Shut the front door it's clear now that our fearless leader has NO idea what's going on in our country because he is still trying to remember an uncle he thought he never met. I am sure none of this is his fault and he had no idea what was going on.

    December 6, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. Mike

    Jeez... WHO the HECK cares (other than all the haters anyway).. We'd have no Presidents if things like "did you live with a family member when you were 22" became a screening issue...

    December 6, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
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