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. Carol H

    Can we worry about what's important, please? Who cares???

    December 6, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  2. Paul H

    I don't understand how this is news. A middle aged person these days is supposed to remember every single place they stayed more than two weeks on the fly? How stupid is that!? I can see that this article brought out the bigots in-masse. I have to give credit for CNN being more balanced in its coverage than I thought before reading it.

    December 6, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  3. Just Saying

    The Obama apologists are saying that this is such a minor thing and that it doesn't even matter. No, what matters is that the ADMINISTRATION can NOT be trusted at all, even with the little things that supposedly don't even matter! They seriously tried using the same exact line that they've been using for Obama's entire time in office, which is that they never talked to Obama about it. So, there are innumerable examples that show they purposely do NOT give information to the President (presumably to shield him with "plausible deniability" when things go badly).

    That is NOT the way to run an effective administration! How can the President be responsible for running things, when he doesn't even know what's going on? And in this example, when the direct questions were asked years ago about Obama's relationship with this uncle, they didn't think to actually ask Obama? Instead, they thought the best idea was to just make up their own answer? It is almost comical how inept this administration is!

    December 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Heart Patient

    Six years later and someone things it is still important? Man do some people just need a life!!

    December 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. disappointed american

    Stunning how far we as a country have fallen, that a large segment of our society continually forgives/excuses a president that blatantly lies to us. Quite stunning actually.

    December 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. Dr. Mantis

    Another day, caught in yet another lie. Why is this even news?

    December 6, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  7. Roderick

    Haters, can't you read , The presidents people never asked him and they first said "there is no record of them having met" record being the key word. Much to do about nothing. Typical CNN.

    December 6, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  8. jamvee1941

    So the President's "A" Team, never even thought to ask him if he had ever met, or lived with his uncle . . . But, in stead, made up an answer from the disjointed facts at their disposal . . . ? NICE MOVE!

    December 6, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Bobby G

    I am no fan of Obama but why is this even news. That said the excuse for what happened stretches credibility to the extreme. Even if the truth, I would have just said I made a mistake than have Jay Carney make a fool out of himself and us if we are willing to except such a train of logic. No one asked him directly?? Come on

    December 6, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Acorn

    Its OK to lie now and cover it up with another lie or say "I don't know" or brush it off per Barack.

    President Obama holds the "highest office in the land" and does it CONSTANTLY so THAT makes it "the right thing to do" while Michelle the children AND his Aunt sit by in that rent-free White House...

    December 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. Denise

    Dittoheads foaming at the mouth and Boss Hogg jumping up and down ......we got him now........Wait until it comes out that he snuck out one night when his uncle was sleeping and met his buddies at the neighborhood pool......they jumped the fence, played loud music and drank beer........

    December 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. Ron Hatfield

    If nobody asked him, why issue a statement that they had never met?

    December 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Tuffa

    What is wrong with that?! Why USA collected tax from his uncle for many years if he is illegal resident.

    December 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. Christian Grey

    Lie when the truth sounds better...

    December 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Denise

    We're not losing our health coverage. It doesn't apply to group 'employer" plans........we're all employed.....

    December 6, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. allmal

    From reading all the comments here, looks like the Democrats will be taking a beating next election.

    December 6, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. Nameliar luar pants on fire

    LOL,LOL, just a little lie.

    This guy is hiding more

    Why lie about this? Something is up.

    And if u trust this fool or any other pres then ur a tool too

    December 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. markus

    CNN- I will make sure the next time my kid lies to me that he "clarifies" what he lied about. Nice sanitary way of saying things.

    December 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  19. michael cassity

    How many lies does this man have to tell before all you stupid idiots understand that this PROGRESSIVE wants to totally change America??? He is not proud of this FREE Country.

    December 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  20. Jam

    The Liar in Chief does what he does best.

    December 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  21. John Kammerud

    Thank you to Sally for saying it bluntly: What do I care whether our President lived with an uncle for a short time while in law school. People need to get a life and stop hyperventilating over every rumor or "new" breaking news that meets the needs of the media obsessed.

    December 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. Katrina

    If you like your health care plan, you can keep it, If you like your doctor you can keep them PERIOD. Too funny. His lies will never end & some of you will continue to hold water for this dude.

    December 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Larry

    Lies, lies and more lies. Does this guy have and character?

    December 6, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. Realityblowz

    Another day. Another lie. Worst president ever.

    December 6, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. Joe

    Lies, lies and more lies. Does this guy have and character?

    December 6, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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