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. Mike in SS

    To The REAL TRUTH – I 'm sure you felt the same way about President Bush too, right?

    December 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Bob Penn

    We need to hear much more about Obama's relatives and his history. Where are the news reports about Obama's mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a member of the communist party?

    December 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. Jim

    Brian wrote:
    "So people made assumptions and it's President Obama who needs to set those folks straight? Uh, why?"

    It was President Obama's official spokesman that made the assumption and then passed that assumption on to the public when answering a direct question from the press. His spokesman made a error while speaking on his behalf. It is his responsibility to set the record straight.

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Namedave

    Every time the white house or Obama says anything, it has to be retrackted. Liars

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. Dan

    There's a difference between disagreeing with an administration and childish poo flinging. If you actually think the government and all its agencies didn't check the guy out before he became president, you need to stop and think about it. Would we have allowed bin Laden to become president if he fooled us into voting for him? Use some sense; because if you want people to agree with you, your logic needs to step up a bit.

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. rubypearl

    please, every government employee background is thoroughly checked when possible security risk position.. school records, neighbors and employer interviewed, complete list of family members. what a bunch of liars.

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. TruthandConsequence

    The biggest question here is at what point in the uncle's long illegal presence did he become legal? Answer: during his nephew's Presidency. It really seems Obama's illegal family members are being singled out for preferential treatment, family members who he doubtlessly has known are illegals for a long time – in this case, even lived with him. It is no wonder this has influenced Obama's stand on illegal immigration and to oppose U.S. immigration law by "reforming" it. .

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Sileeste

    So are they saying that if you stay with someone for 3 weeks it is considered living there? I have vacationed with family for longer than 3 weeks. I was not living there, I was visiting.

    December 6, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. Pablo

    It's not a big deal except that the uncle and the aunt are both staying in the US illegally and have been for years. They have also been receiving assistance provided by the taxpayers. Is this a great country or what. The aunt says it is.

    December 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. GLM

    How can you tell when Obama is lying? You watch his lips.

    December 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. rufus

    Ho, Hum. Just another lie to add to the list. This one is smaller than most, too.

    December 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Bill

    If you lie about the little things, you'll most definately lie about the big things. Face it, there's a pattern with this guy.

    December 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Government Waste Rules

    MORE LIES!!! What a disgrace!!!

    December 6, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Shawn

    Wow. President Obama stayed at his uncles house for a few weeks a quarter century ago while waiting for his apartment to become available. I guess he really is a secret Muslim communist that wants nothing but the complete destruction of the American way of life. If only we all knew before the last election that he once slept on his uncles couch we could have voted for Romney and saved America. Too late now I guess.

    December 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. mainesrd

    Just one more lie to add to the mix. Who is astonished at yet another lie coming from the lips of Obama?

    December 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. GenPatton

    You mean he lied? What?

    December 6, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Lord Toronaga

    Concerning Obama's book, it's dishonest not to say he lived with him. Obama also has deported a million Mexicans......but not one word about his uncle who he knew was an illegal. It's even worse that he hasn't said a word to his uncle in over 10 years. What kind of person is Obama ? Lastly....these "omissions" and "misunderstandings" are become quite numerous.
    Maybe the uncle knows things that our president doesn't want to get out...

    December 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. tasoma

    Or wait? Obama knew nothing about it. That's right.

    December 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. SeeThruIt2

    They made a statement that the President had never seen his uncle without even asking either the President or his uncle?

    The issue here isn't really about the uncle. It's about the credibility of anything anyone in the White House says.

    December 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Scott

    Obama uses plausible deniability for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in his administration. Nothing is ever his fault, and apparently no one is his administration ever tells him anything.

    December 6, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. Joanna

    LIAR LIAR pants on fire. Obama's cooking now and all you Dem's still suck up the lies and believe this clown. When will you idiots ever learn! If it was not a big deal, then why did he not tell the truth from the beginning. You dem's are basically sheople, like lambs to the slaughter, thank you all for forcing me down the road to ruin with all of you LOSERS !

    December 6, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. Lord Toronaga

    These Obama groupies sound a lot like the Bashir groupies.

    December 6, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. James in Canada

    Another lie .... Shocker . Has this pos ever told the truth. Why hasn't he been impeached .. Both Clinton and Nixon told 1 lie . This guy has yet to tell the truth ..

    December 6, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. gus

    Come ON people, just LET IT RIDE.....

    Goodbye, I lied
    Don't cry, would you let it ride
    Goodbye, I lied
    Don't cry, would you let it ride

    You can't see the mornin', but I can see the light
    (Try, try, try to let it ride)
    While you've been out runnin', I've been waitin' half the night
    (Try, try, try to let it ride)

    And would you cry if I told you that I lied
    And would you say goodbye or would you let it ride
    And would you cry if I told you that I lied
    And would you say goodbye or would you let it ride

    December 6, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Sean

    All politicians lie one way or another. All presidents since George Washington to the current have lied: Nixon-Watergate scandal, Clinton-Monica Lewinski, George W. Bush-Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, Obama-Tha he lived wit his uncle. Now the real question would be Have you ever lied? I am sure you had, including me.

    December 6, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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