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. robrod1

    Lie? This president lie? This White House Lie? Say it anit so....

    December 6, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    So his uncle lets him crash for a while and this nice nephew pays him back by ignoring him for the last 20 years. Sounds about right for 0.

    December 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. Johnny 5

    Obama once lived in Mass. with his illegal Kenyan uncle, and one day his nephew grew up to be the president of the United States (illegally). I wish Obama would put as much effort in to being an outstanding president as he does in hiding his past.

    December 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Mike Wallace

    Obama never mentions the subject = Obama lied. #conservativecognition

    December 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. robrod1

    And some pople still blaming Bush....Ignorance and stupidity correct philly?

    December 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Sam

    Say it isn't so – Barack Obama lied to us . . . again? Get used to it. Nothing about this president is genuine, honest or qualified.

    December 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. Denise

    Wow, I'll be able to sleep better tonite knowing this tidbit about Obama....

    December 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    He didn't know it was his uncle until he read it in the media. Can he use this excuse again?

    December 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. Carl

    my question is why is it a bad thing to have been in touch with him? that s his uncle after all. The kennedys kept in touch .

    December 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. Denise

    This should give the thousands of right wing radio trolls fodder for the remainder of his term and even into Hillary's.....

    December 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Phil in KC

    All those calling the President a liar – where is your proof. According to Carney, they never asked the President. They made a statement based on their own limited research.
    And, what if he did stay with his uncle? So what?

    December 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. Tell the Truth

    To be a good liar you have to have a good memory!
    Obama doesn't even lie WELL!
    No WONDER he paid big bucks to get his records sealed. This is the creature who wanted HIS private life hidden but snoops on all other Americans.

    WAIT a while....... the birthers will be proved right!

    December 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. Rob

    It is a big deal that this lie was told. This country has no leaders now nor any real leaders that I can see in near future. There are no Trumans, FDR, Lincolns, or Kennedys coming unless we as Americans demand that is what we expect.

    December 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. J. Sidney Fox

    I heard a whimsical comment once to the effect: "If his mouth is moving – assume he's lying" Sadly it appears more and more to be the case with our "Commander in Chief." And why does an illegal resident receive amnesty? When I went to school illegal meant illegal.

    December 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  15. Terry

    the administration... caught in another lie, but yet, Democrats, and their voters look the other way.

    December 6, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Biff Omney

    Seriously, who cares. The president got his long lost uncle out of a traffic violation. Start the impeachment proceedings!

    December 6, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. A True Conservative

    So, we go from "he never met him" to "He lived with hime for a brief period of time". That is a big difference. Is this man and this administration capable of telling the truth? No, more than ever, I want to see his school records.......what lies have been told about them?

    December 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. quidestveritas

    funny, I wasn't aware that calling someone out for being untruthful amounted to racism.

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Rex

    I don't care if he lived with Easter Bunny, as long as he tells the truth and he does a good job. Unfortunately, he is neither, and all of the Koolaid that was swallowed is just a bitter concoction.

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. concernedcitizen1

    liar. period.

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Jen

    WHO CARES? I sure don't

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Margaret

    Further proof that Obama never underwent the type of background investigation like those in Special Operations do. Amazing, isn't it?

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Dejan

    Oh no! Obama slept on an uncle couch for three weeks 30 years ago! Impeach!

    December 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Whatsthedifference

    I hope the next president no matter Rep or Dem or whatever and whatever color he or she might be, gets scrutinized as much as this guy. Otherwise, that would make us... (fill in the blank)

    December 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |

    They go from "never meeting" to "living with him for a short period" . WOW the POTUS is a liar and NO ONE CARES BUT THE GOP. You reap what you sow DEMOCRATS!.

    December 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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