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. CryBabies

    All I want to say is "Interesting".

    December 5, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. A True Conservative

    In the country illegally......and the left keeps telling us tough Obama has been on you guys have a clue or an honest bone in your bodies?

    December 5, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Evergreen

    And this is news because.... ? I have relatives that I was once close to but, unfortunantely, lost contact with. Life sometimes gets in the way of staying connected.

    December 5, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. smith

    Another lie, this guy just steps in poop every time he trots. smh.

    December 5, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  5. Never Gone' Happen MittensRobme

    so what....white folks talk to their uncles and aunties all the time; even the ones they are selling us to in Isreal and Europe!

    Let the black president be for Pete's sake!!!!

    December 5, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  6. Never Gone' Happen MittensRobme

    @Smith, lie about what?

    Dont you have an uncle you live with that you couldn't recall 20yrs ago...the president was not even asked!!

    GW Bush forgot he smoked pot...until the taped conversation of his confession came out and the tape was returned back to him! ***FACTS***

    December 5, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. ED1

    Starting to sound like Biden open mouth insert foot what a liar in charge that's seem the only thing he does well except to blame someone else for everything.

    What else has he been hiding just wondering for a man who is supposed to be smart.

    December 5, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. emptpockets

    This was not a lie it was merely a glitch!

    December 5, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    So what?
    A young black man looking to meet someone in is family that looked like him and could tell him more about his father.

    December 5, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. Lisa P.

    What? The President's press secretary doesn't know every detail of the President's life for the last two or three decades? Incredible! You'd almost think they were two separate people or something!

    Glad that Carney did eventually get around to asking. It's tough to put absolutely everything people might ask about into a book, or two, or three. Also nice to hear that President Obama has a family stake in immigration reform, even if it isn't as strong as his stake in health insurance reform. It tells me that he'll keep on fighting for a solution.

    December 5, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  11. A True Conservative

    So someone else could write his book for him Mama? Clueless!

    December 5, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    Oh no – the conspiracy folks are just hangin' out with their touches. CNN – the folks with a match......
    Actually they needed something new. And a non-issue is probably the safest thing to send 'em off with.

    December 5, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. Karl

    "And this is news because.... ? I have relatives that I was once close to but, unfortunantely, lost contact with."

    I guess you missed the part about them lying about it.

    December 5, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  14. Name JT

    It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Keep covering it up Dems

    December 5, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  15. Hatchm

    I wonder if there's anything the whitehouse has told the truth about over the past five years.

    December 5, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  16. HoTamale24

    Chalk that up to another lie from "LIAR IN CHIEF"
    jay carney is the biggest snake, and the only reason obama admitted it was because his uncle stated it in court.

    December 5, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  17. Hatchm

    Seriously? The White house "clarified"? CNN sure uses nice terms for "lied" when Obama does it.

    December 5, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  18. Richard Long

    Obama can't stop lying.

    December 5, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  19. Spoofenheimer

    The Teabaggers are going to love this one. Don't they understand how racist they appear every time they jump on these stupid little stories and try to use them to delegitimize this president? Most of us are proud of President Obama.

    December 5, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  20. Dee

    So the White House had the audacity to answer for the President concerning his own family without consulting him? How could they possibly know every relative that he knew or didn't know? How dare they state unequivocally that they knew that our President had never even met his uncle...a pretty audacious claim for his employees to make about their boss's personal life. Would you presume to make such a statement about your boss's history? The answer is NO, of course you wouldn't and neither would they, without asking him first, that is. Yes, I'm afraid our Prez has been caught in yet another lie. It wouldn't have looked good going into the 2012 election for people to know that he had an illegal alien for an uncle...much less one that he himself lived with.

    December 5, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Emmanuelle Goldstein

    Obama lies like normal people breathe.

    December 5, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. ladies first

    and your point is at the end of the day the world is round

    December 5, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  23. Old White Conservative Male

    Probably used his uncle as part of his scam to get into Cambridge under a foreign student grant paid for by good old Uncle Sam

    December 5, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  24. Fair is fair

    Lol so as usual Obama didn't know! Lets just start with what do you know? A much shorter list I'm sure! I can't wait till the next president blames Obama for 8 years for continuing all bush s policies! Lol I love politics

    December 5, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  25. Good Grief

    Some posters need to read the article again. Obama never denied briefly living with his uncle, so no lie was told. And yeah, why the heck is this even news?!?!

    December 5, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
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