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. Big O

    Funny how every other president has its college open to the public, not this one..oh no, that is top secret. CNN your a tool of the admin for not doing your part in exposing this farce of an administration.

    December 6, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Iris

    So Erik who cares where the President was born and whether he is a Muslim?...You seem to care.
    As long as he does a good job and that is all I care.

    December 6, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Everyone kept saying "Obama's a socialist!" "Obama's a socialist!" So I voted for him. But they're liars; he's not a socialist at all! More like a Republican than anything.

    December 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. Cricket111

    Too many lies, too many coverups, too many crises to cover up scandals, more lies to coverup lies. Yes, other presidents have lied, but O-liar has zoomed way past everyone else. He needs to go to Mandela's funeral and stay there permanently.

    December 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Greenspam

    As a Republican, I demand Republicans stop the government until Obama testifies in front of court what he knew about his uncle. Did he knowingly live with an illegal immigrant? Did he help and abet a criminal? What say you all?

    December 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Teresa

    Yet another example of the President either lieing or not being in the loop. I think his advisers should be fired if they say things without asking, or fail to tell the president just about everything important. Why does he keep them around if they are so inept they can't ask him something simple about his uncle? Why does he keep them around if they fail to tell him about important things.. every significant "bad" thing that has happened the president has been "I was never told" ... why does he keep them around... its because they make a good excuse for the lies.

    December 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    3 week! REALLY!!!! since when is 3 weeks considered living with someone. Come on stop with all this kind of crap that means not one damn thing when it comes to the big picture. I have meet countless people in my life time and I'm sure the President has meet 1000x's more then I and I have stayed with friends and family for more then 3 weeks and NEVER considered it to be living there. I have relatives that I meet once or twice 30+ years ago and I didn't remember them until my sister told me some details about the meeting to jog my memory. So no I don't see it as a lie or a omit ion it is one of 1000's of things that happen during the course of life. SMH

    December 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. hadeze

    he said something about transparency. what he meant was that the NSA knows everything about me (and you), our movements, our entire private lives...yes, under him we have become transparent – in a gov/t data bank.

    December 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Karen Colizzi Noonan

    I'm pretty sure that i were elected president of the united states i would invite my uncle to the inauguration. Or is that just me?

    December 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. TadBad

    I don't understand the shock. Of course, the White House puts a spin on pieces of information! Dubya did it constantly, & so did every President before him! The public never knew Kennedy's state of ill health; it was generally not known the extent of FDR's paralysis. I could go on about lots of other Presidents & facts that came out later. So he lived with his uncle, an illegal alien, for a few weeks while in college. Yeesh, BFD! What else is new?

    December 6, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Kevin

    I just can't stay silent-people, just the tip of the iceberg-really, how bad does it have to get until he is removed??

    December 6, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. SHane

    they didn't consult with him about Benghazi or the affordable care act. why would they consult with him on this?

    December 6, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. asdrel

    From Erik: Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim.

    Hey Erik (or is that really a mask for D. Trump), do you have one shred of evidence to indicate that claim? The White House may have just had to admit a lie, but that doesn't mean the State of Hawaii is lying about his birth certificate.

    December 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Huh?

    "Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim."
    and erik was hatched in a bum fluff experiment gone bad.

    December 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. coyoteliberty

    I'm so glad that I'm not the Secret Service Agent in charge of protecting the president from pants fires. 🙂

    December 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. akka1234

    Funny how addressing a "lie" is always referred to as a "clarification". If they lie about little things – they will lie about big things...

    December 6, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. Gump

    Oh God, Obama stayed with his Uncle. Wow that is big news. That sneaky Obama better impeach him. His Uncle is (should we say it) Black. That is a big problem. Did they talk? Did Obama give him the secret handshake? Did they talk about Muslims? Someone better get to the bottom of this and now!

    December 6, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Karloff

    "Clarified"? You mean "admitted to lying."

    December 6, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. Patines

    Wait a couple more years and the whole truth will come out.

    December 6, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. penel9

    What would make a grown man, much less the president of the United States make up such a lie?

    December 6, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Paul Bearer

    The biggest lie of all is that this bozo is qualified to be president.

    December 6, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Knightman

    Saul Alinsky would be proud.

    December 6, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Chris

    I believe all citizens in US including Obama has a right to privacy. I myself lived with my Grandma for many years and would have no need for disclosure running for office. Please stop with the PR Stunts about Obama not being an American!

    December 6, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Jason

    Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. menisino

    Like I said before...Obama is America's "Three Dollar Bill".

    December 6, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69