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. Darla44

    Obama was selected based on his lying and salesmanship skills. To believe a word he says is to be a fool.

    December 6, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. OldCrankyVet

    How many times can a man lie to you before you can call him a liar without him & his allies calling you a racist?

    December 6, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Steve

    I often wonder how carney can keep a straight face when answering questions. Almust feel sorry for him having to cover the lies of the president

    December 6, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. Obamanation

    You mean Obama told a lie? Wow, never thought THAT could happen.

    December 6, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. The Thinker

    Some people are speaking as if the President is responsible for all things that go on with his family and relatives. President or no-president you cannot choose who your family is, what they do and how they do it. Neither can you control their status. You are only in control of yourself.
    With that said this is of very little importance and really none of our business. This in no way should prove or disprove anything about the administration or President Obama's character.

    Anyone who says otherwise, is either on a witch hunt or totally bias. Frankly, I don’t see anyone caring who Bush or any other previous president spent limited time with when they were teenagers or young adults.

    Concern yourself with your own family life and petty skeletons in your closet and don’t try to project your own inadequacies, shortcomings and guilt on other people.

    December 6, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. rl


    December 6, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. Zoey4801

    doesn't surprise me a bit. I personally believe this man has lied from day one on just about everything.

    December 6, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Next up... Obama not telling the truth about that one time at band camp.

    December 6, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  9. chieftrainer

    Dan...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.
    Think about that first sentence. If we voted for him, yes he would be president. That is the nature of our election process whether we were fooled or not. Maybe you need to take your own advice.

    December 6, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Mete Kroo

    So that is fine. Any sane human being give a shelter and protection to a bright young man like OBAMA. If I were there at that time I will voluntarily do whatever is in my capacity to President Obama. Short.

    December 6, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  11. kevin

    Chronic lying will eventually become cancer.

    December 6, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. A Million to Juan

    What another lie?!!! That can't be!!
    The next lie that we find out is he wasn't born in the USA and lived in a Islamic Madrasa. Something he and his lying bandits have denied previously.

    December 6, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. Sue

    WHO CARES! It is the right wing nuts who cannot let go of the fact there is a non-white person in the White House. I wish the media would grow a pair and report REAL news, not scandal.

    December 6, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Adam

    My friend who was on "vacation" in the US from Poland, helped built Obama's deck before he bacame president....

    December 6, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Ken

    So Obama has been denying that he even knew his Kenyan uncle and the White House has been backing it up by saying there is no record the two ever met. Now, it comes out they actually lived together for a while. Were the birthers right too?

    December 6, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. mkuske

    Obama is in a perpetual battle with honesty.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. John

    Lies are stupid-tell one, that needs another, next you don't even know any more what you said. Tell only the truth and you need never worry. Obama is not lying now about this and presumably would not have earlier-what was to hide? I've stayed with relatives too until my apartment was ready.

    It was just stupid not to ask the President himself when it first came up. People thought the boss had too much to do to bother him with a question HE was best qualified to answer, and so they've managed to make HIM look like an idiot too. Well, he did let them be hired, didn't he? Now he has to take them out to the tool-shed for a whupping.

    Of course, we've got plenty who will call for impeachment here. If that's you, don't bother, you need something more substantial than THIS. Come to think of it you haven't found anything else yet either. And you won't. You might as well just explode your head now and get it over with.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. Scott

    The little weasel Carney has the toughest job in DC. Lying for the Liar in Chief.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. kevin

    Disgrace of this country.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Don

    If you like your uncle you can keep your uncle.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. philly jones

    Not quite as bad as George Bush (or anybody else) knowing where he was when he "served" in the military.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. jr

    That is a pretty big misstatement.

    December 6, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. Bob

    He still knew about the incorrect information they published and didn't correct it with the media back them, so judge for yourself.

    December 6, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Doug Bo

    uhhhhh, do all you losers realize there are actually real problems that need addressing??? The only reason the WH would feel compelled to not be forthcoming is because of all the flat out racism from racist who will not accept the fact they lost and we have an African/American President. If you all weren't so racist a question of having lived for 3 weeks with a distant relative while in his twenties wouldn't mean a thing. Let me put it another way, the Civil War was decided, the anti-Americans lost, you need to get over it or find another country because you certainly are not patriots or love the United States.

    December 6, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    NO, don't say it is a lie...from this White House? From this president? Lie no way..........

    December 6, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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