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. George

    I work in a big company and these type of ankle biting things never making it up to the top. So i'm inclined to believe the WH explanation. Had I have been 20 yrs younger I would tend to think why lie about trivial things.

    One thing is for sure, these two obviously do have good relationship and we all have family members who we rather be away from.

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. Donna Thousand

    This president has absolutely lost all credibility.

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. A Citizen

    I will stipulate to the fact that all of you posting that the President is a liar (and really a native of Kenya) do, in fact, hate the man and everything he stands for regardless of merit. Now go about your business.

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. DDL

    Just wait until it's confirmed that big O was actually born in Kenya. It will happen....

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. Erman Howell

    Watergate does not bother me.... Does your conscience bother you, now tell the truth.

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  6. RS

    I would just like to say that everyone who says that they are moving to Canada if happens, please do. And enjoy their socialist medicine, inexpensive drugs, their low murder rate, and cheap college tuition. But if you don't have any skills or money (like most Teapublicans), good luck immigrating there.

    December 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. daugherty

    oh come on people. like this is the first time a president has been dishonest. jump down off those high horses and get over your self-righteous perspective. oh and Namjim: pack warm clothes and please, dont come back

    December 6, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Anon

    I understanding holding elected officials to a higher standard but in the end we are all imperfect. To expect ANYONE to reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth throughout their entire life is unreasonable. Look at yourself before you cast judgement on others. Lastly, who cares about this crap story? There are hard working people with very good intentions in this administration. Let us focus on what really matters.

    December 6, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. gstlab3

    I do not care who you are or where you came from you'd better be straight up and honest or it will come back to haunt you no matter how small a lie or omission., it will fester into a huge sore.,
    In politics and government and in commerce all you need to do is follow the money and what actions are taken to find the truth.

    December 6, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. scapegoat345

    People are not upset that he stayed with his illegal alien uncle, they're upset because he lied about it. This worst POTUS cannot tell the truth. If we didn't have all the sheep demos in Washington, we possible could impeach him. All you folks that voted for him and are loosing your health coverage are getting what you deserve. Harry Reid is not going to have his staff have to put up with Obamacare. He is taking care of himself and them.

    December 6, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Evelyn Connaway

    critical thinking – He didn't lie, no one asked him, until Jay Carney, went and asked him, when his uncle was interviewed.. Is it important to report every relative you have met or stayed with a few days? I have talked to relatives I never met, after finding them, while doing genealogy, but have still never met them, face to face. What is the big to do about this, just another bunch of crap. I have relatives that I don't like and never did.

    December 6, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. tom

    Lets face it.....this country is doomed no mater whom is in office. It just gets worse and worse every year. When will it end.

    December 6, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. Robert Smith

    Come on people,this deserves a big "SO WHAT".

    December 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. Denise

    Where was the aunt? Inquiring minds need to know!

    December 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. omeany


    December 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. standing_up

    This should not be a surprise to anyone. Obama will do or say whatever he needs to to get where he wants to be. Many times he has proven this.

    December 6, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Who would belive that?

    "White House reversal" So what's new??

    December 6, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. ME

    This is how you know the man is a compulsive liar. "No record of them ever meeting"...except that he did live with him. So how many people have you lived with that you don't recall ever meeting? Freakin liar.

    December 6, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. becky

    who cares

    December 6, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. nwcommenter

    WHO CARES?!.. and what business is of anyone else's?!

    December 6, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. whocares

    It's a good thing that Bush never lied about anything. Especially nothing that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. Obama's incident was not a lie and certainly not as important of an issue.

    December 6, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. 4Truth

    Oh, of course, Obama didn't know this came up before with the opposite response. He just didn't know, as usual.

    December 6, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. MickeyOregon

    Can this man ever NOT lie? There was no reason not to lie about this, yet he did. He can't seem to help himself. Or is he really that incompetent and inept and a dunderhead that he "can't recall" – which is a problem with his WHOLE administration. They never know, never heard, can never recall – and nothing ever is their fault (let alone their incompetence).

    December 6, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Winston_Smith

    "Absolutely zero involvement in his uncle's deportation case"

    Just like he absolutely did not live with him.

    December 6, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. pat thompson

    Lie, after lie, after lie...

    December 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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