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. stephen douglas

    Plausible deniability: The withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the those around him/her became public knowledge. The term most often refers to the capacity of senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command to deny knowledge of and/or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by the lower ranks because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved or at least willfully ignorant of said actions.

    I'm seeing a pattern here.

    December 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. James

    More than 50% of you voted for Obama not once, but twice. Stop complaining about truth or lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  3. idb

    Obama lied. Nothing new there.

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. oreo

    another day another lie.......

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Tom

    So this time it can be said that, "Obama lied, but nobody died-–at least that we know about."

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. Bill Klinton

    I didn't inhale!

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  7. firegazer

    Bush was a liar in some respects too, however I don't think he lied quite as often as Obama. Although I didn't think much of Bush as President I did trust that he would make decisions based on what he thought was best for America, Capitalism, patriotism and American exceptionalism. I trust Obama not at all.

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  8. Tom

    I love the liberal logic that excuses any bad behavior by Obama by pointing out bad behavior of others.

    December 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  9. paouser70

    @Chris & Norm – – – will never match the bush/cheney adMISSistration whose outright lies got us into war with dead American young people. and that's just for starters... You right/wrong wing nuts sure have patherically short memories – when it suits you.

    December 6, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. KR

    Why do we care where he lived for a few weeks before law school?

    Enough distractions.

    December 6, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. Bill

    What he lived with his Uncle...How dare he!

    December 6, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. jorge washinsen

    We should have heard by now what line of work was his uncle in for 50 years?

    December 6, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. smdahl

    We're getting better and better at electing criminals.

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. alan smithee

    Why is this post still open for comments? It's embarrassing to the President, it demonstrates incompetence in research and reporting, and there appears to be no opening for supporters to accuse George Bush, the GOP or the Tea Party of having orchestrated this. Posts with similar characteristics (if comments were permitted at all) have been closed down in under 30 minutes, while posts that invite vitriol to the GOP remain open for comments for months.

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. J.A.Miller

    He should have visited his uncle more often. Honor thy father and thy mother...goes for uncles too.

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. K.J.Welder

    It just goes to show how the people of the USA, were lied to by who else put the left wing media, they suckered you into voting for Obumble not once put TWICE. The lady from Alaska had more smarts in her little finger than this man had between his ears. The left wing media were on her every word and movement until they got her were it was a sad day to see here guit. You people should be happy to have Fox news at leased you have the chance to hear the rest of the story.

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Rickyricardo

    So he is a terrorist, I knew it! Obama is the ANTICHRIST

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. GARY

    What judge was paid off this time ? I thought illegals were to return to their country and then apply for legal citzenship. I guess not when OBAMA is in town . The KING has spoken ? LOL

    December 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. stephen douglas

    Plausible deniability. Definitely a pattern in this administration.

    December 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. voxpopuli

    Why is this news? We already know the man lies like it's a bodily function. It would have been news had what he said been true.

    December 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Maybe when we stop accepting the fact that all of these politicans lie...and start holding them accountable (both sides of the aisle), then we will start getting people who tell the truth? When you accept a lying, don't be surprised when you are lied to. To those who think this is no big deal and that it's a big waste of are the ones I'm speaking to. I can accept and respect a person who is truthful about their intentions and honest about there beliefs. I can choose to support/not support, agree/disagree, and vote/not vote for that person based on clear information. Let's face it...he lies to us because he knows we expect it and are willing to accept it with no consequences. Hell... we re-elected him!

    December 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. stephen douglas

    Plausible deniability.

    December 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  23. leitskev

    Liberals serve a higher truth: their ideology. To them, telling the truth on a daily basis is so...mundane.

    December 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  24. Michael

    Once again, you moronic people cannot distinguish the difference between lying and being wrong. Certainly there should be consequences for being wrong, however you cannot treat being wrong the same as a lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  25. Omission

    Lie after lie after lie. Why does it come out now, because his time as president is over since he can't be elected again he has nothing to fear from the truth. But it is always nice to see that after 50 years of living here illegally (that is a hell of a lot of taxes not paid) he is allowed to stay since his relative is the president. Power comes with benefits, and then some.

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
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