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. Yo-Yo Ma

    Everyone says who cares, but I bet if the President was Republican, Liberals would have protested and demanded to be impeached. What a biased bunch of dirty bags we got here.

    December 6, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  2. Liberally Challenged

    Oh please. You people would have jumped all over B u s h for something like this. Turnabout is fair play.

    December 6, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. G. T. Simpson

    Just one more lie from the "Liar in Chief"

    December 6, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. Will

    Not my problem.

    December 6, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. chicagoboyrn

    Who Cares??????

    December 6, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Tom

    Obama caught in yet another bold faced lie. Shocker.

    December 6, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Balls McGhee

    And this affects the country's economic system, how?

    December 6, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. I can not tell a lie

    The most uninformed President in American history!!

    December 6, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. Cathy

    I am amazed at the number of people who don't think it is any big deal that the White House lies just as a matter of course. If they don't get caught "great" and if they do then they make up some stupid story about how the President didn't know anything about anything to begin with... This is crap. I don't care whether he knew his uncle or lived with him or never set eyes on him (none of that matters) what matters is that you can't believe anything that comes out of the Whitehouse about any thing at all.

    December 6, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Yo-Yo Ma

    People keep mentioning Bush, but that man has been out of office almost 7 years, but the Liberals keep calling on Bush's name.


    December 6, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. addicted to denial

    He met him before he was never asked if he had met him. Obviously, the Obama family is always in denial or plan ignorant of the facts about their lives.

    December 6, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Jean Sartre

    What a silly and entirely stupid non issue!

    December 6, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Jorge

    I think the significance of this is less about Obama and more about his Uncle trying to stay in the country. It seems he was an Illegal Alien and is trying to fight deportation. It doesn't matter that he isn't Mexican he'd have been thrown in prison, removed from his family, and dropped off in some random location in his home country. Since he is not Mexican, he is allowed to go through a process of trying to fight for a right to stay here. Isn't that a B$$CH!

    What this means for Obama though is he knew all along that his Uncle was here illegally and didn't do a thing about it. I mean, who would turn their family in right? However the law is the law and being an accomplice is a crime and my people are also thrown in jail for that as well. The double standards in this country. Really getting sick of it.

    So i can get on my soap box – there is a difference between a person from overseas being here illegally and someone who is have native american crossing some arbitrary border. Just because that brown person speaks Spanish doesn't mean they are not of this land. Just more in a long line of hatred towards people who belonged here before the boat people arrived. Unbelievable.

    December 6, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. addicted to denial

    Who cares? The millions of faithful voters who put him in office.

    Not me though.

    December 6, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. US

    "The White House was asked about their relationship in 2011 at which time the administration denied the President and Onyango Okech Obama had ever met."

    Shouldn't O have come forward and corrected his administration? Why didn't he come to them and say, "hey listen what you said isn't true." Why not come forward from the very beginning... oh wait, this is someone who always has something to hide, just look at his record people!

    December 6, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. hjfarmer

    One more time for all of the Bush lied about WMD's. Please check the facts. Bill and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to mention a few all said that Saddam had them. We KNOW that he used them to kill thousands of his own people. We also suspected after the fact that they were moved to Syria. Have any of you noticed what has happened in Syria the past six months. The intelligence failed and Bush made a bad decision based on that. Maybe that is why Obama is now using the intelligence agencies to spy on us. Oh and for those who throw the Bush National Guard deal around. Remember Dan Rather lost his job becasue of that pap.

    December 6, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. Garrett from Texas

    "No one talked to the President about it" will be the one-liner description of Obama's part of the history books.

    Fast and Furious? No one talked to the President about it
    Black Panthers? No one talked to the President about it
    Benghazi? No one talked to the President about it
    DHS releasing illegal aliens before the sequester? No one talked to the President about it
    That promise about your insurance was inaccurate? No one talked to the President about it
    The website wasn't going to work? No one talked to the President about it
    Iran got some of their captured spies released by the US but wouldn't give up American christians? No one talked to the President about it
    The NSA is snooping on every American in violation of the 4th Amendment? No one talked to the President about it
    The IRS held off the applications for tax free status to enemies of the Administration? No one talked to the President about it
    The IRS released Romney's tax records illegally No one talked to the President about it
    The current President of the United States knew about, supported, and lived with his illegal alien uncle and maybe their relationship got that uncle special treatment? No one talked to the President about it

    What exactly DO his people talk to the President about?

    December 6, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. strange

    So are all of his family members living in the US illegally? A few years ago, it was his aunt who CNN reported as being questioned by immigration.

    December 6, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. Amazedthatyou'redazed

    6 years into this fiasco and you can't defend your man without bringing up Bush? That's a real riot!!!!! Yeah, it's only the important lies that matter. Oh THAT Kenyan Uncle.

    December 6, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Crampon

    They even lie about unimportant things.

    December 6, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. David

    Thats the problem with being a liar-you can't remember what you said!

    December 6, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. George

    This represents how far we have come as a nation, that a presidential candidate must lie about something that should have no bearing on whether or not to vote for him.

    December 6, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  23. Joe Bedlocks

    So what's this mean, another lie. This kid should of had his ass kicked by now for lying as much as he has. Shame on the media for not revealing this earlier.

    December 6, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  24. Get over it

    Until we all hang together we are going to continually hang ourselves individually. it's time people that we start to get along

    December 6, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. J G

    Does Obama ever stop lying?

    December 6, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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