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. Widow

    We need Obamacare reversal

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

    This is released when Nelson Mandela passes in hopes it gets looked over.

    December 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. Cheetahe

    It seems like all politicians whether it is Obama or any other of these clowns very seldom they tell the truth. The inconvenient facts mostly get shrugged under the lie carpet until for some reason or another someone lifts the carpet and sees all these ugly truths living in-there.

    December 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. SteveO

    This just in. Obama still a liar.

    December 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Joe M.

    Ho hum, just another lie in this administration.

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

    Ever notice how anything critical of BHO and his administration gets deleted by the moderator? Way to go, CNN, official mouthpiece of the WH.

    December 6, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  7. Tom Kolby

    Just fill the time with non-important stuff and distract the Democrats until we get another chance to get us another white, Christian, male, President. Seems to be working just great so far. You don't have to work on changing anything and it takes little effort to insult anyone that figures up what the game plan is. Wait and the Good Old Times with the Good Old Buddies will return. We can always bring up the FEMA camps and Black Helo's!

    December 6, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Wv

    Don't care if they lied Bout this. More concerned about the lies of keeping your policy and plan. Same story different president. Both bush and Obama are terrible leaders.

    December 6, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. str009

    Plus, Toronto mayors are a thousand times more entertaining than ours...

    December 6, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. Farrok

    So what? President Obama is an excellent American President. You think you job/position is difficult look what he has to manage and put up with? People like You!

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. Denise

    I demand to know if he paid his uncle to sleep on the couch or if they made a deal where Barack bought his own groceries and toiletries. Did the apartment complex manager know?

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. Jarett

    oh my god who cares?

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. Greg

    So he lied. Again!

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. NJA

    If Mr.Obama has to lie about living with his uncle for not even a month what else is he hiding? I mean seriously why does where you lived before law school matter? Ready for these next three years to be over with so we can start fresh with another group habitual liars.

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. mezanine10

    Jay Carney has the worst job in the Obama administration.

    December 6, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. m

    Obama needs to keep going to his Liars Anonymous meetings. He's got a real problem!

    December 6, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Florida Lady

    First of all, if I had stayed with a relative for 3 weeks 20 years ago, I would have thought of it as a visit, not living with them. Who cares. It was his uncle and he stayed in touch for a while. Oh the Horror!! You can always tell the Obama haters by their comments.

    December 6, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Jose

    So HE is from Kenya!!

    December 6, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. Rico Suave

    Is it not the expectation of all Americans to have the president tell the truth? There are far too many people calling people racist for simply calling out the president on his lies. I am not White American, or Hispanic American, or African American, I am American and I have the same expectation of my leaders regardless of what race they are. Just have integrity. Is honesty the expectation in all races or is that a black/white thing too?

    December 6, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. vincent

    Another lie 🙁
    Obama doesn't want anything to do with his uncle, because his uncle is angry with Obama since he cannot log onto the Obama care website

    December 6, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. Liberally Challenged

    Oh please. You lefties would have jumped all over Bush for something like this. Turnabout is fair play.

    December 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Elizabeth

    Well, well, well. Surprise, surprise. Of course he was asked and lied.

    December 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  23. hjfarmer

    I honestly (ironic to use that word in this conversation) cannot believe all of the comments from those saying they lived with their uncles or grandmas, completely missing the point. Is that intentional to change the subject or do you really not understand that we are barraged with LIES from our president about everything large and small. Maybe this lie did not affect your life...but maybe it did. This lie along with others may have affected the outcome of an election. That resulted in a President who LIED to us about Obamacare. The lies that were told to get that passed has already afected over 5 million people. The lies about Benghazi likely affected the outcome of an election as well. The relatives of those who died as well as the survivors who have been given gag orders are affected by those lies. I worry about the effect the lies this administration is now telling or will later tell will have on the lives of me and my children. PERIOD

    December 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  24. Wolfgang

    Has Obama ever told the truth about his past? Keep in mind this is the same man who wrote two autobiographies about his own life that contained fictional characters. His New York girlfriend for example never existed. No one knows anything about this man.

    December 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Cali-Girl

    No wonder he is caving on immigration reform, his own family is here illegally and is being allowed to stay, does this mean all other illegals can stay as well? Or just his family? This man is a joke!!

    December 6, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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