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. mark

    Meanwhile, Republicans lie about IMPORTANT things but nobody cares.

    December 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    If you cannot get elected on your past or future intentions without are not presidential (or elected official/public servant) material. General statement to both sides left and right.This guy needs to start taking accountability for himself and the people that he hand picks. Incompetence all the way around. This administration is seriously run like what I would expect the local high school president, VP, treasurer, etc. would be run like. It comes off like a bunch of amateur's who are still learning on the job. I guess they found out it's very easy to criticize the guy in charge...but a lot harder when you're the one actually sitting in the big seat and everyone's looking at you because you're now the guy in charge? You wanted the big seat at the head of the table because you thought you were the smartest guy in the world....oops! Wake me up when it's 2016...if we still have a country at that point.

    December 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Heisenberg

    So Obama has another secret come out about his past eh? And you people wonder why this guy has never released his college transcripts (Even BUSH did). His whole life prior to entering the government is a big hazy mess.

    December 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Rob

    He lied again..Who can trust someone who LIES about living with his Uncle.

    December 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. chieftrainer

    NameCHristine Ray...I don't see anything. Wrong with stayimg with a relative for a period if they allow you to.
    Did you miss the part about the WH denying it happened? If he will lie about an inconsequential thing, does it make you wonder about what else he has told you?

    December 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. Robert

    The plot thickens, and libs get nervous. This is another big lie. Hopefully it will reveal that Obama is in fact Kenyan and illegal just like uncle. Then the libs will owe me a coke for all of their lies, and even better they will look stu pid for believing it.

    December 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Barry O

    Norm, Don't hold your breath waiting for the answers. Pa Joe Kennedy and the kids invented their history and kept the lib media in their the story was whatever they said it was. Obama is no different – only more brazen because the number of Kool-Aid drinkers is larger and more enamored. It'll take fifty years and the FOIA to pry the truth out...if it happens then. Today, the best you can hope for is the understanding that when he opens his mouth he lies and when his mouth is closed, his lapdog Carney does the CYA lying so that the story can change at will without the POTUS having to backtrack. Carney can just say "no asked" or some other nonsense. Hey, it worked for Rob Ford.

    December 6, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Olivier

    Hearings! We need hearings, investigations, endless talk-show recriminations, more hearings and then: Books, Books, Books!!!!

    December 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Dan

    You can't blame the president for this. It's the first time that he's been made aware that he lived with his uncle!

    December 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. chieftrainer

    Meanwhile, Republicans lie about IMPORTANT things but nobody cares.
    Ahhh...the "But mommy, Johnny did it to" defense.

    December 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Stacey

    SLOW NEWS DAY?????

    December 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. Johnny D

    Is this president or this administration capable of telling the truth about anything? The presidential spokesman must go home after a hard day of lie'ing and drink himself silly thinking "what the hell am I gonna have to lie about tomorrow?"...

    December 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  13. malcat

    Obama surprise there. An Obama relative in the country illegally gets to surprise there either.

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Brian

    Dear Obama supporters:
    I condemn dishonesty independent of political affiliation. Do you?

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. momof3

    Are we just supposed to get used to lies, upon lies, upon lies? Are we being conditioned? Are we being "worn down", to just accept and ignore the layers of deceit?

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. Doug

    While I don't care that he ever met his uncle, I do find the WH story that Obama never knew they denied any relationship at all disingenuous. I would rather they said he had forgotten about this, or some such other spin. But to say he never knew what was being said about him by the WH is simply not believable. This is not a pro- or anti-Obama comment. I am just startled by the amateurish way in which the Press Secretary handles things.

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Moochy

    That is so weird that this White House has lied once again. So strange....

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. Brian

    Who cares?...All sane non-biased people that's who...

    December 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. ChadTL

    Why is this an issue again? I'm sorry. As an American tax payer this is my to do list. #1 Since we went down the road of affordable healthcare can you please fix it. Don't stop it don't repeal it just fix it so it is really affordable and fix the website #2 Jobs that pay enough money that I can function, repeated jobs #3 Shut up and do your job and stopped telling about stuff I really don't give a flying flip about and wont put food on my table or a roof over my head. I don't care where the president lived, where he is from, where you are from and who any of your parents are. I don't care if your sleeping with your neighbor or if you like sending pictures of yourself through text message. I REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE NO MORE THAN YOU CARE ABOUT MINE. #4 See number three until you get it. #5 in case you missed #4 Do your job. For the most part 99.9% of am 100% sure I can find something immoral wrong about you that would really object to or find personally appalling anyway, so please stop with the games and do your jobs.

    December 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Charles

    Can we focus on what's really important here?

    "Onyango Okech Obama, President Obama's uncle, granted permission Tuesday by a federal immigration judge to stay in the United States, where he has lived illegally for the past five decades."

    That is not a sentence!!!!

    December 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. Margaret

    My very favorite part of this whole article is the line, "Nobody spoke to the President." Obama must be the first president in American history who is never told ANYTHING about ANYTHING. And yet his supporters see nothing odd about this in the least. Why is he always kept in the dark, especially revealing anything negative? Are the people who work for him afraid of him? It gets more wierd by the day.

    December 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. tommeister

    Again lib-losers, IF someone said something untrue about YOUR FAMILY and a FAMILY RELATIONSHIP a HUMAN being would CORRECT the untruth being said, the FACTS are that Obysmal didn't want to be associated with this drunk driving Uncle and his admin, which he is IN CHARGE OF – LIED – Period. Hope that clears up your lack of truth telling and solves the cowardice that befalls you frauds when the TRUTH is told about your "hero".

    December 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Joe

    Obama lies for the liberal communities enjoyment. Liberals love liars.

    December 6, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Phatt Mannequin

    Predictably, GOP fans are outraged. I can see that. But why do the Dems think it's ok for the President to lie to the American public? Yes, I read the article and know he "wasn't consulted" before his press secretary made up a favorable answer. Anyone really believe that? Obama isn't the anti-Christ. But he's no American savior either. He's just another lying politician. Why is anyone surprised?

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

    I'm not liking Carney and others handling Obama's public communications. So Carney runs off with a statement that Obama never met his uncle, and THEN checks with the President and is corrected? Add that to the communication fiasco around Obamacare (launching a dysfunctional website, misleading people about losing health plans), and it is clear that Carney is in no measure a real communications professional.

    As a communications professional myself, here is what one does
    1) if you don't know something about your client, don't make something up
    2) it is better to shut down a dysfunctional product, and announce that repairs are in the works, than to have it frustrate your public audience
    3) It is better to be upfront about negatives, and point out the overall benefits, than to brush them under the rug.

    Carney is a major failure

    December 6, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
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