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. PE

    Somewhere, some time ago someone asked a question and the Prez wasn't there for that (and ever other single question ever asked) to vet it. Bigots, this is too thin of an excuse to get apoplectic about. Just accept the fact that he tall, skinny and doesn't look like you.

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. richardine

    I am sure that president Obama had no idea that he was actually living with his uncle; he probably heard about it on the news

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. grahhollow

    I had to read the comments on this one. I knew the right-wing obsessives would go nuts with it. They are so predictable.

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. NameCHristine Ray

    I don't see anything. Wrong with stayimg with a relative for a period if they allow you to.

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. James

    STIMPY, so your one of those people that purchased land in Florida........

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Ray

    It is the republicans fault for everything.

    December 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. will

    no one cares, won't change a thing.

    December 6, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. kelky

    Even if he hadn't been consulted initially (which I doubt anyway), he had the ethical obligation to set the record straight afterward.

    December 6, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. glk20c

    Obama IS Kenyan.

    December 6, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Catherine

    Gotta wonder all the "lies" that will be revealed once he vacates the White House.

    December 6, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |

    i didn't read anything in the article that said the President claimed to have never met his uncle. The article says that the issue came up back in 2011. Jay Carney said that the President had never met his uncle. if the President had made the correction then, there would be no accusations of him lying, now. i'm not trying to make an excuse for the President, but it seems more like an issue that went unnoticed at the time; and now that the uncle is claiming the President lived with him, the Administration is trying to set the record straight.

    December 6, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. ora pike

    but we all know that obama will not lie to get what he wants or to avoid responsibility--YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU CAN KEEP YOUR DOCTOR. IT WAS THE VIDEO.

    December 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. John832

    "Carney retracted that information Thursday saying that the President himself had never been consulted"

    When is the President consulted or informed about anything going on? It seems like he's always just finding out about things he should have been aware of and now his propagandists are just making up whatever answers seem politically best with no regard for the truth.

    December 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. anthrogirl

    Who cares. Can we get back to more important things like Jobs, jobs jobs!

    December 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. face the facts

    Really liberals???

    Aren't the race card and the Bush card getting a little old??? It shouldn't even be an issue, when the point is that this administration continues to play the lie card on a regular basis? If the conservatives do it they are liars and racists.

    If the Dems do it, it's "just a blip"??? You guys are hilarious.LOL!

    Let me see now, if there was a lie perpetrated by the Bush administration or Dubya, that excuses the present administration from doing the same thing.

    You guys are in total denial.

    December 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Carl

    Sure, no one cares if he lived with him or not. It's just that it's one more lie....add it to the pile.

    December 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. chieftrainer

    The REAL TRUTH...
    Oh boy.. this latest revelation is really going to those right wing poster-troll-haters all fired up... yawn.
    Just you think his lying is no big deal? If he lies about seemingly inconsequential stuff, doesn't it make you wonder about what else he has told us?

    December 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. tommeister

    Funny libtards, AGAIN he and his admin are caught LYING and "Obysmal knew nothing" and "it is the Republicans fault".

    Christ you frauds and cowards are pathetic.

    December 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. jim

    with all of the super duper reports and investigative news people how come they didn't figure this out or find this out years ago?

    December 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. evergreen

    If someone were to say something untrue about me I would correct that. Saying Obama wasn't consulted is ridiculous. He certainly would have known what was being said and should have stated the truth at that point, not wait until someone else tells the truth.

    December 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Mike MacKinnon

    God, who cares? These people are so desperate to tear down Obama it's getting nuts. How will hate radio and their shills respond if we ever got a real liberal as president.

    December 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. ChicagoDan

    "[C]larified" Nice word for getting caught in a lie. No real difference between never meeting and living with someone. Oops. Tiny "misinterpretation." Imagine if this was Bush, Romney or Palin. The headline would be "lied," "misled," "covered-up," "conspiracy," etc.

    December 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. Rabridevi

    Wow it is true... He did lie.. And about so many things..the GOP got it right..indeed.

    December 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. Evan

    That's it! I've had enough! I'm moving to Canada!

    December 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. dave

    only the kool air drinking libs miss the significance of Dear Leader and Carney's continuous lying

    December 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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