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. jerryrigger

    to the dude above posting about moving to Canada...what skills do you have? Being black does not cut the muster!!!

    December 6, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. pitt04

    Who cares? Leave Obama alone and let him do his J-O-B!

    December 6, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. bnb

    Now it makes no sense why he lied. Best guess why he lied is, to avoid any media scrutiny about his past. We don't know how he got admission to prestigeos schools, his drug usages, any motal issues, there should be some reason to hide his association...

    December 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Bt

    Ooooh! Time for another Issa set of hearings at a cost of several more millions. It gives Republicans something to get their base all fired up about. This is exactly why no one likes tea partiers.

    December 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. sww

    Why make up an answer (that is the most favorable to the Pres) to a question that would have been easily answered by just asking the Pres?
    Why deny it if it doesn't matter?
    Why did the Pres let the miss-information go for TWO YEARS without correcting it if the TRUTH is no big deal?

    December 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. jamessavik

    Another lie from the lying pathological liar that can't keep his story straight.

    PS- moderator: this is TAME compared to the outrageous stuff you allowed about President Bush.

    December 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. frank

    another lie....we knew it all along. Hope liberals will wake up and smell.....the crap of a president you voted for and all suffer!

    December 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. Daudi Mkenya

    Whats all the fuss? In Africa here we live with relatives to give them a helping hand and support in their quest to improve their lot. When some people have lost social capital and are individualistic, rich and with plenty of opportunities, family connections don't mean much. In kenya and Africa, they do and I don't see how you Americans can waste your precious time debating this issue. I suggest you instead focus your energies on saving your dying economy.

    December 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  9. learnusa

    you know what? its too late we Americans will never know the full truth about everything President Obama. At least not in our lifetimes, not if Washington can stand it. or unless he ticks off the wrong group of dems who wish to throw him under the bus.

    but that is a VERY loyal bunch. I doubt it will happen.

    December 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. DAVID

    If a person lies about a travia, do you think he is realiable in BIG Things?
    You can finure it out, can't you?

    December 6, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. geary72

    All of Washington has lies and secrets not yet revealed. Obama has had to tolerate an overwhelming amount of scrutiny. I don't blame him for not sharing his personal life with the media as they will just vilify him. The racism still flies in the Republican south.

    December 6, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  12. Diogenes

    Wait until he is no longer in office then watch the truths come out!

    December 6, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. dhs

    Isn't it amazing how they can spin so much...what a bunch of liars. Even worst, this society doesn't seem to hold anybody accountable in public office. What has happen to integrity... Sure spin this to...

    December 6, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  14. Liar

    Obama is a flat-out, lying scoundrel....

    December 6, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. Patrick

    Right before Harvard, I wonder if that was when he was establishing his foreign residency to help him get into Harvard. Not that there is anything wrong with that, you have to do what you have to do to get ahead but it is the lying

    December 6, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. Jeff

    So his relative gets arrested for DUI while an illegal immigrant, which was relatively big news at the time, and the White House goes on the record saying they never met, and 1) They never thought to check that with him and 2) He didn't hear them say that and come out to correct it? I don't care about the lie. Politicians lie. The problem isn't that they're lying, the problem is if they're telling the truth. He doesn't know about ANYTHING that goes on, unless it's a minor victory, in which case he makes sure to go out and do a victory lap. Didn't know about fast and furious, about the NSA, about the IRS, about the DOJ spying on reporters, about Benghazi, about the obamacare website. What exactly does he know about? Guess he's too busy working on the mllions of high paying green energy jobs he promised.

    December 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. Mark

    Was Obama trying to distance himself from his uncle that aided him while in law school.? If that is the case then he violated the basic principles of family values. No matter what is the case he has no right to distance himself from him.

    December 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. KHS

    This is totally ridiculous! Whether or not Obama lived with an uncle is absolutely irrelevant. But some small minds use every opportunity for Obama bashing.

    December 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  19. george spalding

    THIS is going to come back and BITE Obama on the You-Know-What.

    December 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  20. The O B.S.

    @Sally – Phantom WMD's? You went to Iraq too? I don't know what part you were in but where I was at in Al Anbar it was definitely confirmed. Hell, a simple Google search of "WMD's were, in fact, found in Iraq" might blow your mind. Thank you for serving our country, too, by the way!

    December 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  21. Chirs

    I like how nobody else is seeing the bigger issue here. Nobody care where he lived or who he lived with. Notice all the inaccuracies this administration is constantly backpedalling on, yet it's never Obama's fault? Does he have any control over anything? Botched healthcare rollout, Benghazi mess, shutdown, repercussions on Syria never happening, etc. etc. He and his administration are completely incompetent. I’m by no means one of those right wing conspirators, but if when his presidency is over and he comes out that he isn’t an American born citizen or never went to Columbia or anything along those lines I can’t say I’d be surprised with all the other fallacies he and his gang have had to backtrack on.

    December 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  22. hjfarmer

    Obama did not know about Fast and Furious, IRS targeting and spying on Americans until like us, he heard about them in the news. He must have missed the news the day they reported that he did not know his uncle or I'm sure he would have cleared that up right away. Probably busy playing golf. This is what the most transparent administration in history looks like.

    December 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. george spalding

    I USED to LIKE Obama.

    December 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. learnusa

    and really in truth it does not matter. so he lived abroad for a while... he is still American. living abroad can only make you more open to what it happening in the world around you. I would rather a president who has lived in many countries than one who has only ever lived in the USA and knows nothing about the world. Things just don't work that way anymore you have to know what is going on around us.

    Actually I probably would have voted for him had I known this before.

    December 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  25. salquat

    At what point do people stop defending someone who continually lies? Just wondering.

    December 6, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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