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. Khagaraj Sommu

    There seem to be many gaps in Obama's memory.His composite girlfriend should have raised a big red flag .Carney should wear a paper bag over his face.

    December 6, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. RobN

    It's not clarifying when you change the entire story. Stayed in his home is not a clarification of no record of any meeting. Even if you're supportive of the President and what he's trying to do, you'd think you'd still get a little tired of the constant "clarifications".

    December 6, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. foologic

    More of the convenient, "I didn't know" bulls–t that characterizes the "character" of our (unfortunate for us) President.

    December 6, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. JC

    Anthony, TTown and Bart, these democrats never will.

    December 6, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. tv22

    Same old story – from important to trivial, this White House's response is first lie, then try to blame someone else, then admit it's true but have an excuse of sorts. Excuse always seems to be "nobody here talks to anyone else and we just answer questions without checking on any facts."

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. READ!

    Did no one actually read this article? Obama was NOT the person who denied ever having met his uncle; it was White House spokesmen who did so. When President Obama was actually asked himself, he said that yes, he had met, and even briefly lived with, this man . . . The very first time he was asked. There were no lies or retracted statements made by the President.

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Swami

    No one bothered to ask Obama about something only he would know about? This is either outright fraud or complete incompetence. Can we trust anything that administration does?

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. ianijm

    Soooooooooooooo ... Obama never saw the original story ... and he never felt the need to say, "Oh no that's not right I did stay with him for three weeks. You guys never asked me. You got it wrong."

    Mmmm hmm ... lies and the lying liars who tell them indeed ...

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  9. Amy

    The problem here is that it shouldn't matter. Why is it important? When he was a little more than a kid, President Obama stayed with his uncle, who was here illegally, for a very brief time. It's time to give his ethnicity a rest.

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  10. StandardIssue

    Another one. Add it to the list.

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. FrmnjName

    No wonder he was trying so hard to legalize illegals.

    December 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  12. srcactus

    Do not loan money to this man no matter how reliable his promise to repay seems!

    December 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. mgordon7

    @ T.Lee Okay, but what about those of us who are not Republicans....those of us who call ourselves Independents? Isn't it worrisome that the President....any President....would lie? This is how partisan we have become. Democrats (and Republicans) were so horrified 40 years ago that a President would lie about what he knew that he was finally driven from office. Now, it appears, many supporters of President Obama (which as Americans, we all should be) choose to overlook a blatant lie that was told to further his political career. Doesn't that bother you? If it doesn't then can you honestly say that Richard Nixon's actions DID bother you?

    December 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  14. HaroldLewisBlair

    Is it possible that Mr-"O" would lie? just because Obama's backer spent millions to hide his past history-and many more millions to keep the news about his in-eligibility out of the news-media-doesn't prove Obama is a LIAR does it? maybe a CON-MAN who will say anything that people want to hear- actually every part of Obama's life is a lie from beginning to end-

    December 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. Tom

    The "truth." How hard is it? I guess is must depend on what the meaning of the word "truth" is, eh?

    December 6, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. jake

    Just so we're clear. The people who answered that question before looked through his book and his record (including interviews and other media) and couldn't find anything so they just answered no as opposed to just...asking him directly? And when they said no, the president never corrected them? In the grand scheme of things, I don't see this as such a calamity that he has to deny meeting his uncle but this does say more about the convenience of lying or misrepresentation for this administration that promised to be different.

    December 6, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  17. HM

    Goes from never meeting to living with. That is just a boldface lie. how interesting they let it go out the day Mandela dies. Got to hand to BOB, he is slicker than Willie could ever conceive of being.

    December 6, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  18. Michael

    WHO. CARES. Jesus. Get over it, people.

    December 6, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  19. stooges999

    another lie......but what do you expect out of Washington? they all lie through their teeth....

    December 6, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. Jolat

    And the reason his college records are sealed is because he told them he was born in Kenya so he could get foreign student loans to go to school. What a phony.

    December 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Carol

    Obama stayed with his uncle for three weeks. Get over it. There is no lie here. Obama was never asked about this.
    Have any of you ever visited a relative? If so, were you criticized for it?

    December 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. StandardIssue

    The White House was asked about their relationship in 2011 at which time the administration denied the President and his Kenyan uncle had ever met.

    Now...let's hear the ridiculous spin from the left in defense of this blatant lie by the White House in 2011. LMAO

    December 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  23. sandy

    I don't believe anything that comes out of Obama's mouth, and what's worse is the poor and one-sided reporting by journalists who either don't get their story correct or do nothing about investigating the truth behind it before they put it out there.

    December 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  24. rad666

    " Obama had stayed with him for three weeks after he was accepted into law school"

    And Obama knew his uncle was an illegal? So, much for caring about the law.

    December 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. fred.

    Uncle Omar got a green card so he would keep his mouth shut. Hay Omar you won the lottery I am sure there are people out there that will pay you millions for the truth. We you there when Barrack was born?

    December 6, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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