December 5th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
9 years 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. Guest

    Obama lived with him for several weeks and he FORGOT. Obama is a pathological liar.

    December 7, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  2. McLovin

    More lies from "Obama the Lying King"

    December 7, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. O-Disaster

    Not a suprise that Obama's family are illegals, he probably is himself... still waiting to see that birth certificate. Regardless, what president isn't a liar? Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy, and etc. Its the nature of the game...

    December 7, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. IpseCogita

    Why deny this in the first place?

    December 7, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. Wade

    Why would anyone be surprised by more lies from Obama?

    December 7, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. bilk7

    People are so quick to go around calling others liars without any evidence. Do you know the difference between being wrong about something said and a lie? In this case, the President wasn't even asked about his uncle when the White House made their earlier statements. The White House was wrong to have said it. They didn't lie....unless someone out there has evidence that they knew at the time what they were syayng was wrong. Many keep saying this administration and the President in particular, are telling lies and not being truthful. Well, several of thier recent statements have turned out to be wrong but I have yet to see any evidence of lying. If those calling the President a liar have any evidence, please let us know!

    December 7, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. Redeye Dog

    White House says, "there was no record of the two ever meeting."

    Oh, except the one in Obama's head!!

    December 7, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Ruby

    It there ANYTHING that obama hasn't lied about ???

    December 7, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Carol

    This should read: Obama visited his uncle for 3 weeks. What is controversial about that??? This is not news. Have any of you bashers here ever had a child stay with a relative? You are trying very hard to make something of this and it is/was not even worth mentioning.

    December 7, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Ruby

    Why is this criminal being allowed to stay in the USA ????

    December 7, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. jj

    If it is not a big deal then why lie about it? Because he is a compulsive liar on top of a narcissist

    December 7, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. korkea aika

    Obama is the finest president we've had in office since FDR. He has calmly backed us out of the disaterous Iraq war, the great recession, the horrific state of our health care delivery and is soon to deliver on ending the war in Afghanistan. So I trust him, and know that history will put him down as a great american, worthy of having his head and shoulders on Mt Rushmore. And no one will recall the names of the cowards of the "Party of No' when all is said and done. Good job Mr President

    December 7, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. Air Lar

    Mark, please don't be so obtuse – he's no "at fault for having relatives" – he's at fault for LYING... AGAIN.

    December 7, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. hih

    It is a news story because the uncle was in the country illegaly

    December 7, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
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