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. capiers

    Anyone that makes a comment about Obama being a liar and is a compulsive liar is just being childish. Tell me one President that has not lied then you can get on your soapbox and preach your garbage.

    December 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. Zane

    Oh, the President had never been consulted? Someone else just decided to say they had never met. I remember my parents saying "You can never tell just one lie, you have to tell another to cover it up". It would be interesting to know if Obama has ever told the truth. It doesn't look like he has in the last five years.

    December 6, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Ryan

    Why do people care about this crap? So he stayed with a relative for a little while 20 years ago. Please tell me, how at all, does knowing this information affect today in any way? It's all fluff because they have nothing else to report, so they just dig up garbage. Next they'll be saying, "He crashed a car when he was 16, must be why he's a bad leader" zomg! Nobody gives a damn!!!

    December 6, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Tony

    Does it frighten anyone that we cannot trust anything that comes from the mouth of the President or this White House? I would say it is safe to presume the true agenda has little or nothing to do with what they are telling the public. So much for the most transparent Administration.... Yet another in the long list of lies.

    December 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Name

    Ungrateful little user. He uses his uncle, who kindly cares for him when he needed it. Then when his uncle became a detriment to his future career, he doesn't visit him for 20 years. This shows our president is a liar with no morals.

    December 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Can't believe a word this guy says.

    December 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. penel9

    Jimmy Carter was/is a very nice man but not presidential. Same category, well intended, but I don't think Carter was a plain, flat liar.

    December 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Wisher

    I told everyone I knew to not vote for this liar from the very start. My gut said something, and my gut has been right. Now his illegal relative gets amnesty as the supreme POS president changes the rules again to suit him. He attended his undergraduate years as a foreign student. Still believe he was born in Hawaii? Ya, right.

    December 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Honestee

    May he who is without sin cast the first Drone!

    December 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. Tony

    I would really like to see a copy of his Indonesian or Kenyan passport.

    December 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. kapii

    Bush lied us into a war that cost trillions and 1000's of lives of our sons and daughters..
    where is the Repub outrage on that...

    December 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. Wisher

    Phil in the first paragraph of the article again. Geez.

    December 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. stungun

    Is this what they mean by "Cry UNCLE!"

    December 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. JD

    "According to Carney, they never asked the President. They made a statement based on their own limited research."
    Well lets see you could have asked him.. Oh wait this statement is purley Damage control Lie Carney lies too, as well as the entire WH staff.. lost credibility.. Obama Knew... however not so much a big deal if he lived with uncle.. But WHY LIE about it

    December 6, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Sue

    Soooooooooooo many lies, I really think the President was a foreign student in Harvard..Let's see the real records

    December 6, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. Browser

    What is even more disturbing than the White House answering questions without verifying the information is that Obama's uncles's attorney used Obama's connection with his uncle as a reason to allow him to remain in the U.S. Would Obama's uncle still be in the US if not for Obama

    December 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. wolf

    Why would you not ask the President about something like that? Also to the "liar" people, why would he lie about living 3 weeks with his uncle? There is no motive to lie.

    December 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. gagi

    I'm not a fan, but let's say the President was't consulted. Don't you think he would have corrected the error once it was made public? That's just wrong. First his grandmother's a liar because he never lived in Africa. Now his uncle is a liar for trying to say they're related. What a screwed up family.

    December 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. HowCanYouBelieveAWordHeSays

    The list of lies this president has told is so long, I'm unsure if he has EVER told the truth.

    That said, Reid and Pelosi repeatedly told many of the same lies, but seem to be getting off scot-free.

    December 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Bob

    I'm sure Mr. Carney is always given carte blanche to speak about the president's past. He just checks his book, and then speaks for the Commander in Chief. He would never ask Mr President what to say. I seem to remember that redneck congressman shouting out during a state of the union speech. does it go?

    December 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. poz4poz

    Truly Pathetic, if all right wing tea party republicans have on Bush is that perhaps he once stayed in the US with his uncle who might have happened to be from Africa well this makes them look as sad as they are against his race! One could find so much more dirt on former President George W. Bush!!!

    December 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  22. sonnie3

    What next. Seems a lie a day keeps carney at bay. One day carney will no longer keep a straight face while defending obama from his lies. carney needs to write a book.

    December 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Michael

    Republican crackpots think Obama's citizenship is a lie...what's news here?

    December 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  24. Roc

    So once again we see another lie, and saying the president was never asked? This has got to be one of the most misinformed president, or just plain ingorant of what is going on around him. Where is the journalists? Should they not dig into the past of a man that was going to be president? Look how they jumped on the bandwagon when someone accused Bush as a draft dodger. I now wonder if the president was born in the U.S. wonder if anyone even asked him.

    December 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. critical thinking

    Lying about something that appears to be so trivial would make anyone who has a brain to wonder why? Why lie about this? Well people only lie when it benefits them to do so. It has to be in their self interest or the interest of a person close to them So in this case, a lie was told to provide a benefit to himself or his uncle.

    December 6, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 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