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. Chanel

    OK and this is news because????????? The economy has not crashed, jobs have not shut down, houses have not gone back into foreclosure and no wars are on the horizon. Where is the tragedy?

    December 6, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. dnokc

    If you are genuinely surprised by're pathetic.

    December 6, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. byebyegop

    And?????? You Republipukes need a life.

    December 6, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. srcactus

    Worlds longest list of lies by a dignitary over the longest period of time.
    What a record!

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. JC

    How we got to a point where presidents' uncle can be accepted as legal immigrant after been illegal in the United states for 20 years?

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Chris

    Just another piece of information from the WH that cannot be relied on as the actual truth. It is getting really old

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Marc L

    I am trying to understand something here. So, after previously saying that he never even met his uncle, Obama is now saying that he lived with him for a period of time and kept in touch with him until roughly 10 years ago? How does an Obama supporter even justify that lie? On the surface it seems like such an insignificant thing to lie about, yet he did lie about it.

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. iowajoe56

    Why are so many posting so ready with the Lie brand? I don't even know why this is relevant other than setting the record straight. The POTUS is pretty busy and has a staff that handles a lot of media minutiae. The explanation for the clarification seems reasonable and very plausible to everyone but the haters.

    I would love to see all the haters put under the same microscope and see how their imagined perfection melts away.

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. scooby

    im sure someone will blame Bush for this oversight.

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. WOW

    Reasonable people on both the right and left, think abut this for a moment. He really never had been consulted and yet an answer was given that he didn't meet him? Why would that be done if there wasn' the fear of political baggage? Why would nt the answer have been "we don't know" ?

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Norm

    The true story of this President's life may never be known. There should be transparency. Doesn't he like to use that word. It should apply to him so the US citizens know who the elected twice as President. I don't know how he has been able to get away without disclosing his background, proof of citizenship, etc. How did he go from community organizer to Harvard Law school. Who paid for it.? Who got him in? What did he do for money as a community organizer? When will the American people wake up and question everything about this man and what his agenda is?

    December 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  12. Darrell

    If the president wants to know what he thinks or who he knows he should ask his staff. Apparently they are answering all of his questions for him. Previous to yesterday, never knew him. Immediately after the testimony, stayed with him for a short time before law school, that's it. Today, stayed with him after law school and kept in brief touch with him while at Harvard. Hang on folks that lie tree is still growing.

    December 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. Stephen

    203,000 jobs added to the economy, unemployment rate at 7%. So what WH contradicted themselves; how about Iraqis and American soldiers who sacrificed their lives for lies. What is this? Lets concentrate on what we benefit from an administration. I wish Obama was white and am black; i just feel like people so love to cling on to hating someone and get distracted by flies flying around.

    December 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. Ricky

    Why is this relevant? So nobody else has some weird family members? They are still family, and sometimes you have to see them.

    December 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. RoboKnuckle

    "READ!": Do you honestly think that the President (or any close family members) had no clue that the statement put out in 2011 ever existed? There is no way he did not know about the statement. He can't act like a 12 year old and say, "Well technically, no one ever asked ME, so it's not lying." He's the President of the United States for God's sake and he needs to act like it.

    December 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. firegazer

    This should not surprise anyone. As bad as Bush was ( and I thought very little of him in 2nd term) I at least trusted him to make decisions based on capitalism, American Exceptionalism and patriotism. I have absolutely no trust in Obama; he will always be seen as anti-America in my eyes.

    December 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. DE

    So Obama wasn't up front about where he lived for a while. BIG DEAL!!! Bush tells 935 CONFIRMED LIES about Iraq and not one conservative said a word. it has now been revealed that the reason we went into Iraq was "We need to kick someone's ass, Afghanistan is too easy". So over 4,000 Americans died and tens of thousands are maimed for life just because the war mongering thugs in the Bush administration wanted to throw a little weight around. If this isn't enough to bring Bush and Cheney charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, I don't know what is.

    December 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. YouMadBr0

    Exactly how do you "forget" that you met a family member you actually lived with for a brief period of time?

    Just amazingly breath-taking dishonesty from this administration.

    December 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Deac

    You must be confused. Or you were hearing what you wanted to hear. Or you are a racist. Or it came out wrong

    December 6, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. notfooledagain

    Liar Liar, it goes on and on. Why should anyone believe anything he says? If B0 was buying a car from me and paying cash, I still would want a credit check.

    December 6, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. mike g

    gotta love "amy's" post... "he stayed with him when he was little more than a kid" really? re was waiting for his apartment to be finished so he could move in and start LAW SCHOOL.... generally you start law school AFTER 4 years of college, that would make the "kid" 22 years old. oh that's right according to this prez a child is up to 26 years old...

    December 6, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. jorge washinsen

    The plot thickens.

    December 6, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Adam

    "There's no record of" my meeting my grandma every summer of my youth. I still met her. Hiding behind that kind of language is the slimy work of a lawyer!

    December 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. deee510

    The lengths the media will go to make an Obama bashing story. Keep working on it this one is really irrelevant.

    December 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. RoboKnuckle

    "Amy": This has nothing to do with ethnicity. It has everything to do with INTEGRITY.

    December 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
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