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. star fish

    Obama supporters continue to be in denial and throw out the red herrings. We knew you didn't know what you were doing when you voted him in TWICE! fools

    December 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Ryan

    Sure he was. Anybody with a security clearance is asked what your relationship is with foreign contacts and how often you communicate with them. This is not new news.

    December 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. camaro guy

    Think about....a convenient backdrop for Obama. While in college he applied for aid as a registered foreign student. But I doubt the college transcripts will be released in the very near future. But his college ID card, showing him a s foreign student, has been public knowledge for some time now.

    December 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Brian

    So people made assumptions and it's President Obama who needs to set those folks straight? Uh, why? "Since President Obama lives in DC, he must be a Washington Wizards fan. It was revealed that he is, in fact, a Chicago Bulls fan. Why are we finding this out now?"

    December 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Hunter

    every day another LIE surfaces

    December 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Zeke83

    This is the most uninformed, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative, contriving, gaming, underhanded, corrupt, hypocritical, sleezy, codependent, enabling, law breaking, divisive, damaging, administration we have ever had!

    December 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Klaus

    dam freedom of speech ... in north Korea or China it would have never come out....

    December 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. JustTheFacts

    This is HUGE. The ramifications could cause global human extinction. If we discover that he didn't really have "just toast" on Tuesday, January 7, 1978, it will cause the Earth to implode.

    December 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. BJNJ

    All you Obamarites look pretty foolish now. This guy has no substance. He fool you idiots into voting for him by telling you what you wanted to hear. Change change change....yeah...change for the worst. Lie after lie after lie....the obama care web site is still broken. In NJ it pops ALL accounts to the medicaid group.
    Hey...YOU elected someone with no executive experience...a big mouth yes...a doer...Nope. His mouthpiece Carney covers up the lies....Happy now ???? BJNJ

    December 6, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Where does it stop? The web of lies is incredible, and this is from the President. If this is the tone he sets for his Administration, can you imagine how many more under him have lied, misrepresented, or at the very least, engage in double talk. Obama keeps talking about folks have lost faith in Washington; well, he only needs to look in the mirror to get to the heart of the distrust.

    December 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    SUCH a big deal! Who cares whether he lived with his uncle for a brief time years ago or not? What obviously happened is that White House staffers didn't want to bother him with such a trivial question and never directly asked him. These people who say Obama was lying about it fail to consider the much more likely alternative possibilities. What possible benefit would it be for him to lie about such a trivial matter?

    December 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. Greg Campbell

    So, when this went public in 2011 Obama felt no need to correct the inaccuracy? Man, he to a lot of lies to secure his reelection

    December 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. BobPA

    The president lied? What a shocker!

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. Pi

    Well, it depends on what the definition of "lives" is, you see. Also, if you like your uncle, you can keep him. Period.

    Too soon? Too late? :p

    But there anything he DOESN'T – or won't – lie about?! This is what happens when you know you have a willing, agreeable press running interference for you (and carrying your water). You can just say whatever you want, knowing there's little-to-no-chance of it blowing back on you in any real way. Must be nice.

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Solitairedog

    The man met his uncle. He stayed with him for a few weeks. Big deal. Huge? Ha!

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. Cellcept

    Easily verified? How long did it take? Doesn't sound like it was TOO easy or were they just waiting for the right moment?

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. Nick

    mental illness is a serious matter. I suggest you people (you know who you are, birthers) get some professional help for your paranoia

    Hillary 2016.

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. jimi.

    The thing that bugs me about all you Obama haters is the fact that you don't understand that this isn't about one corrupt man whom you believe is some kind of Socialist... it's about the entire system. There haven't been any "good guys" in DC since November 22, 1963. We've been under corporate fascist control ever since, and don't ever forget it.

    Everything else is just distraction.

    December 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. TomInVa

    He lies about his lies. Of course he was asked. But he couldn't possibly admit to living with an illegal alien, so he lied about it. And now he lies about that.

    And we, suckers that we are, believed him and reelected him.

    You may say that this wasn't a very important lie, why make a mountain out of a molehill. But ask yourself this: if he will lie about knowing his own uncle, what WONT he lie about?

    December 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  20. OregonGuy

    Who cares, really? I don't see how this has any bearing on any pertinent issues that are actually facing the country. Who really cares besides republicans.

    December 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Marc

    Starfish go back to Fox news. who cares? oh my he lived with his uncle- geez we Dems should have known better.

    December 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  22. humtake

    What does it matter at this point? We already know he has lied many times to get elected or to pass legislation. If it bothered Americans that much, he wouldn't be in office. But he is, which proves that the majority doesn't care. They don't care if it's a Rep or Dem...they just don't care about lies. That's been proven so many times over the last 5 decades that to keep getting all riled up about it just shows you don't know much about politics...thus you shouldn't be voting in the first place.

    December 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. Kevin

    Maybe his stance on immigration reform is starting to make more sense now.

    December 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. Tommy

    And this all means exactly what?

    [Unless you are a conservative, in which case you have just come up with the most idiotic conspiracy theories-]

    December 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. Dave

    Obama supporters continue to be in denial and throw out the red herrings. We knew you didn't know what you were doing when you voted him in TWICE! fools

    People who voted twice for Bush are the very last that have the right to judge.

    December 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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