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. anon

    The news isn't that this happened. The news is that the White House Staff feels comfortable just making up answers instead of finding out the truth. How hard is it to just say, "Mr. President, did you ever meet your Uncle Omar?" instead of just fabricating an answer. Seriously, this is like in school when you ask a teacher about something, and instead of looking it up, he/she just invents an answer.

    Alternately, it could be indicative of a situation where there is essentially zero communication between the president and his staff, which is also not a healthy thing.

    I'm not going to give into conspiracies and say that the WH lied because it didn't want the president's living with an illegal alien to become an issue during the 2012 campaign, but news like this certainly won't shut up anyone on the right.

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. Observer

    Another lie. What a terrible excuse for a president.

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  3. public profile

    He lied because as a law student, he knew his uncle was illegal.

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    How can you believe anything that comes out of the mouth of Obama or the White House? Instead of lying they call it clarification!

    December 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. VTGUY

    liar, liar.... pants on fire! And he told us that his snake skin oil would cure baldness!

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

    To lie, or not to lie? That is the question..

    December 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. TTown

    @TLee, Bush was the 2nd worst president and this community organizer is the worst. How's that for partisan? I believed Bush when he said there were WMD's and most Americans did too. But when none were found, I lost all respect for Bush and Co. That doesn't excuse the fact that this community organizer and pathological liar is not fit to hold the office of President. Really, are Bush and Obama the best that America has to offer? Lucky for us, I know that they are not, and hopefully a qualified President will clean up the colossal mess these two bozo's have caused.

    December 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. deseon

    get ready for the Republican hyperbole and gnashing of teeth

    December 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. the_dude

    Lying gets easier and easier the more you do it

    December 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. John the Electrician

    Glad I never lived with my uncle. Oh the horror.

    December 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. scott

    For being President, he sure does'nt seem to know very much about what goes on. Did not know about Benghazi, did not know about the NSA, did not know about the problems with the healthcare rollout and now did not know his people denied he even met with, let alone stayed with his uncle. And these same people that still back him are going to be kissing H. Clinton's butt, God help us.

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. Shane

    Funny, whenever things change to be the opposite of what was said, suddenly our POTUS never knew anything about it the first time, and was never even consulted about it. The know nothing President, the unconsulted President, the left in the dark President. Those types of excuses should not be acceptable for any president!

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  13. frankiesweep

    Obama would never tell a lie....

    Not the Obama I know.

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  14. MSFromNY

    No President in recent history has had his whereabouts examined so closely under a magnifying glass by public, media, GOPs etc.. If you, as a President, go around answering basic and non-productive questions like birth-certificate and some stay with a relative for some insignificant period then you will loose your value and respect. As a future commander in chief I bet his records have been established and cleared very thoroughly even before he got elected by the FBI or which ever agency is deputed with that task. Do you think Donald Trump can do a better job than the FBI to very records? Moreover this is just an example of how the r**ists and GOPS are trying really hard to tarnish the president. Not gonna work. His accomplishments more than speak for themselves. Ending wars – Saving Trillions of Dollars wasted in wars – helping libyan rebels win without loosing a single American life – forcing Putin to act on Syria WMDs – lifting up the economy from the gutter – Healthcare reforms – No more threat of loosing coverage just when you need it most – No healthcare coverage lifetime limits and many many more....

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  15. Socrates

    This is precisely the same as starting a war under false pretenses or failing to come to the aid of a flooded city.

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. Dana Abbott

    Really? Why do I feel like we are living through the Nixon Administration all over again? Yes, I know both sides do not always tell the truth, but this is getting ridiculous.

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  17. rconatser1

    Who cares? Just another feeble attempt by the Repugs to discredit the president. They have nothing: no leadership, no ideas, no morals. Just the desire to hurt the other side since they are bereft of anything to offer.

    December 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. mjd

    Why does anyone care????? Gawd! Get a life people!!!!

    December 6, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Oakspar77777

    Yet another thing that Obama didn't know about in his own administration. What DOES he know about?

    December 6, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. FH

    I'm sure the republicans will have a field day with this unimportant information!

    December 6, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. frankiesweep

    George Costanza always said, "It's not a lie. If you believe it."

    December 6, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. SN

    Integrity; From Birther lies to every single critique in regards to his citizenship; read in between the lines on all negative attacks on all posts made here from this article. it all boils down to one thing- fill in the blanks. With the passing of Madiba, Mahatma Gandhi and the rest we should embrace our leaders and come together despite our backgrounds. WH carried the torch continued with Bush policies and got OBL. Let's be neutral and tone down the rhetoric.

    December 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Iknowwhatiknow

    I dont like these games. All Presidents have played them. There was no real record of W military history during the Vietnam error. When asked about it was missing. Obama cant remember he had meet his uncle. Enough is enough. However none of this really matters.

    December 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Michael Haase

    What is wrong with you right wingers? Are you simply unable to process what you read? When President Obama was asked about it, he said yes, he had met and lived with his uncle. Get over it. Maybe Sarah Palin can write a book about it.

    December 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. justamaz

    Its just a matter of when its convenient to tell the truth or tell a lie. All the politicians are good at that,though Obama has taken it to a new level.

    December 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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