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. Rick

    Does anyone really believe that Obama was not asked about his uncle or that he was not aware of the incorrect answer that was given on his behalf. I'm sure that he had ample opportunity to correct the incorrect answer given. The true answer was not a big deal so it is hard to imagine why it was not given to start with. It may not have been a lie by dictionary definition but it was certainly a conscious decision to not tell the truth. The only reason his staff investigated in the first place was to see if they could give the misleading answer that they found no record instead of just asking Obama and giving the correct answer.

    December 6, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. the Stugatz

    and the lies continue to see the light....

    he is unqualified, inept and a grandiose liar.


    December 6, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. Dino Mazzone

    Let me understand something: the White House releases false information (knowingly or not) about Obama and his uncle in 2011. Does the President read newspapers or scan the internet. At one point, would it not make sense for him to say "Hey, wait a minute. That news about me never meeting my Uncle, well, that's wrong"? Did he need to have someone ASK him the question two years later? Wow.

    December 6, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. gary mack

    This should make all you Obama haters happy...Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi....

    December 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. jharry

    "....saying that the President himself had never been consulted about their relationship."

    How much of the dog ate my homework lies must we endure? This is just the start. Someday the birthers will be proven correct.

    December 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  6. CHUCK

    So this is big news to republicans....forget the great jobs report and UE numbers that came in today..THAT is good news to the country...but why is it bad news to the republicans? Mr Obama has been a good if not great president in spite of republican admitted attempts to thwart his every move. He continues to look out for Americans and is paving the way for a democratic victory in 2016. I already have my Hillary bumper sticker.

    December 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. MikeinNM

    Hey, I stayed with some friends for more than 3 weeks over 30 years ago. But nobody ever asked me directly about that. So sue me.

    December 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Bob Marshal

    Can this man or administration tell the truth about anything?

    December 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Gene W

    This guy must live in a vacuum. IRS issue President not aware... NSA issue President not aware..Affordable Care roll out.. President not aware.. Really???

    December 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Grandchildren live with grandparents,nices,nephews with Aunt and Uncles,Sisters,and Brothers live together,children live with Mothers and Fathers You people need to get a LIFE!!!! Go have several seats and just SHUTUP!!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. tommeister

    This just in to the newsroom: Chris Matthews believes Obysmal and will vouch for him. That is all.

    December 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Great Snowman

    The "Bush Lied" crowd is truly silent now. It is sad when you come to realize that the president is a pathological liar. When a person lies about things that are easily verified, surely it is a sign that there is something troubling at their makeup. Who verifies his gold score card?

    December 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. PaulyD

    @the Stugatz, and this from a person who no doubt voted for Dubya twice...

    December 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. Jimh77

    Why isn't the Uncle being deported? He's been here illegally all these years, and how is it that Obama is not doing the right thing in making him leave the country? Obama is a total joke, liar and thief. He needs to be impeached.
    One day it will be clear, he was born in Kenya.

    December 6, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Persimmon

    Don't be naive. All politicians either lie, or omit things to get what they want, We are not gullible little sheep believing everything we're told. Read and think for yourself, and you won't be whining on theses comment boards. Don't be such babies. Read and think. I repeat, read and think.

    December 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. James

    Does anyone know more about this uncle. How has he been working and paying taxes? Does that require a SS#? Do you get a SS# with a student visa?

    December 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Maani

    And this is news because...? It seems more like a misunderstanding than any sort of "smoking gun" about Obama. After all, why would knowing and/or living with his uncle even be something that would NEED to be "covered up" or lied about? This is a tempest in a teapot. Nothing to see here...move on.

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. OHCountryGirl

    I don't consider being a house guest for a few weeks "living with" someone!

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. MrsFudd

    To quote Iago from Disney's Aladdin – "oh now there's a surprise! I think I'll have a heart attack and die from not surprised!". Of course Obama lied. It what he's good at. If anyone thinks this man deserved to be put into the Oval Office, they should be slapped upside the head. He is an unqualified empty suit, just as the late Geraldine Ferraro described him before she died. He is the worst president in modern history.

    But no one would dare impeach him or call him to resign for all the illegal (Obamacare) and unethical (Fast & Furious, Benghazi, lying consistently, etc.) because he's our first black president. Half black in reality. But no one wants to be known as the person who went after the first black president because then they would be branded a racist for the rest of their lives. And yet color has nothing to do with it – it is Obama's incompetence and foolishness.

    Our country is in shambles because of this fool and he will stay in office because of the color of his skin. ML King Jr. must be spinning in his grave. This is the exact opposite of what he meant when he said people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. critical thinking

    When asked, the President said he was first made aware that he lived with his Uncle when he heard about it on CNN, but he said he is looking into immediately.

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. RangedRover

    Obama's legacy can be summed up with two words: 1) Liar 2) Incompetent

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Judi

    I don't know what angers me more....the FACT that Obama lied about his relationship with his uncle, which doesn't seem to be a big deal, or the FACT that his Uncle was here ILLEGALLY and 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."

    December 6, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. ryanwin

    They try to act like this was no big deal, but this lie was to cover up a relationship with a family member who would sully Obama's name. Only the lowest of the low hide family members for political gain.

    December 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. perennial2

    The issue isn't whether or not Obama lived with is uncle for a period in college. It is that the uncle was an illegal immigrant.

    And it is that he lied about it during the campaign, was fuzzy about it even before that, and then others in his now 2 administrations also lied to the American people and (lazy) press.

    December 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. sls

    Leave this man alone – look how many lies George W told – omg – I am so sick of everyone giving this man a hard time – good grief – who cares where he lived or not or whatever – I lived with different people too – that is in the past – gosh – what do these people want from this man – is it because he is not the right color.

    December 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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