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. DarqueSide

    A quark is larger than my interest in this. Who cares whether Obama stayed with his uncle 20 years ago?!

    December 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. Tmilano

    He is liar-pure and simple

    December 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Tilley

    Any chance he might actually be his father? Somebody better ask him or we'll never know...

    December 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. joe

    your headline should be caught lying again

    December 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. Peter Williams

    All presidents in fact all politicians are lairs by nature. The answer is simple, throw everyone out of office, Dems, Reps, everybody. Our founding fathers never intended for Congress to be a lifetime occupation. Obama a liar, sure, but so was Bush, so was JFK in terms of his lifestyle and health issues, frankly, who cares? Just remove everyone from office and bring common sense back to WDC. The answer is so simple, just fire them all.

    December 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. BoFo

    Despite the people who are trying to recite the talking points in defending Obama and belittling his critics, this president does have problems with the truth, and it just doesn't reflect well on his character.
    And don't try comparisons with Bush, Clinton, etc. They are not the president of the United States. He is.
    He has a character flaw; if the truth does not fit his needs, it becomes irrelevant.

    December 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. ogona

    The uncle was an illegal alien when BO lived with him. Sounds like accessory to a felon

    December 6, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. not quite right

    lots of illegal people in the US. really they should come in the right way. its not fair to the rest of us. we're getting killed over here. no jobs. our education is too high, our health care (as lousy as it is) is too high. our roads and infrastructure is delapidated, we already send too much money to every other country. these kids are hosed at the most expensive time of their lives. if you invest in your education, they sent the jobs to other you are flat on your face with a huge bill. at least these supposedly poor people aren't trying to float $150,000 student loans. they can go out and go up. We are WAY WORST OFF than they are.

    December 6, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Jimmy

    Who does care about this?, I dont.
    I do care about a partisen bill (ACA) passed by the Democrates anf the POTUS.
    This has divided this country more than George Bush ever did.
    Yes I know Bush secretly visited Sadam and he knew for sure there were no WMD.
    Bush is the only one who knew the truth and then lied about it.
    Some people really beleive that too!

    December 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. PJ Workman

    If you are honestly worried about who the President lived with when he wasn't the President, then I feel you have entirely too much time on your hands. In the big scheme of things, somebody please explain to me why this matters!! While I'm not surprised that this is a story to be talked about, I am sad that we spend time on such ridiculous things. Actually, I'm ashamed that I am even giving it this much time!! Grow up, America!!

    December 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. DiggingForTheTruth

    Well, now, if he didn't tell the truth about the Kenyan uncle, how can we believe him about the Kenyan birth certificate?

    December 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |

    I can picture the birthers twisted hands bursting throught the soil of their collective grave plot. Returning, once again, to terrorize, and annoy the simple townfolk. With their evil cry of SEE! SEE! The uninformed common folk can only cringe in horror in: THE DAWN OF THE RETURN OF THE......BIRTHERS!! evil has a new talking point

    December 6, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. joe

    @ A Citizen Does whether you like or dislike Obama make a difference to whether or not Obama told the truth? My question is why? Why would he NOT clarify this back in 2011? The assertion that the WH made the claim that he hadn't met his uncle – whether true or not – could not have escaped his attention. Does he have a responsibility to correct an incorrect statement from the White House on his behalf? If it isn't a big deal, why would he NOT correct the White House mistake. Everything a president does either helps or hurts his credibility. This, in my opinion, hurts his credibility at a time when he really needs people to believe that he is an honest man.

    December 6, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Bubba Ray

    When did Obama say he never lived with his uncle?

    December 6, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. t2vodka

    My only problem with this is, if he is going to lie over something so small, what else is he lieing about?

    December 6, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  16. Mike

    If you like your doctor; you can keep your doctor, PERIOD! If you like your plan; you can keep your plan, PERIOD! Just another "reversal."

    December 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. frank

    once again for those ignorant liberals BUSH DID NOT LIE...he reported what ALL the international agencies were telling him (and Hillary/Biden agreed).....where do you think the chemical weapons in syria came from???? walmart

    December 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. cvernon

    Is the President consulted about anything that is being done or said on his administration's behalf..?

    December 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  19. holspark

    President lied again. Does this dude EVER tell the truth? Is his staff the most CLUELESS staff ever??? What a Buffoon

    December 6, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. JoMama

    Believe anything that comes out of Dear Leader's mouth at your peril. Its all lies.

    December 6, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. quidestveritas

    gotta love how the Obama crusaders have attempted to change the subject from the administration's prevarications to whether one should or should not live with a relative.

    December 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Decima

    "this PROGRESSIVE wants to totally change America"

    Good. He should. When he became President, this country was almost entirely destroyed by the Bush administration and needed to be changed.

    Do you blame him for not saying he lived with his uncle? The majority of you right-wing morons want to criticize him for everything from his middle name to having contact with family. You do everything you can to tear the guy down for crap that doesn't matter in the slightest because you don't have a leg to stand on otherwise.

    December 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  23. Bubba Ray

    "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"

    I was always amazed how Bushes lies were excused especially the ones about WMDs.

    December 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  24. Ulysses-AZ

    Hahahahaha... I notice the Obamites have eagerly taken to parsing the retracted statement ala Bill Clinton and his definition of the word "is"... How can you trust anyone who so frequently, I won't even use the word "lie" here out of respect for the office, deny that they meant what they actually said?

    December 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  25. awma

    yeah, bush lied sooooooooooooooooooooooo much less about things that were sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much less important

    December 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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