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. c

    Since when does the word "clarified" mean "admitted once again to lying about something that President Obama previously did or said?"


    It doesn't, and if you had actually read the article it is clear that is not what happened.

    December 6, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  2. C. Curtis

    Why is it a big deal whether the President stayed with an uncle for a few weeks? Oh I forgot, it's only a big deal for this President! Hooray for racism!!!!

    December 6, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Bill Gunter

    Lying again, no big surprise there.

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. deee510

    Would this be a story if he live with a white uncle?

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. john

    I think obama has been fibbing all along.....if you want to call the 100 promises he broke more Obama lies.
    It has turned into the OBAMA COMEDY HOUR with Jay CArney the master fibber.

    Just sit back and enjoy it on COmedy Central after Stuart. If you look at all his lies like a comedy show it is actually funny except Obama is now officially turned himself into "A JOKE".

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Kevin

    I don't know why everyone keeps saying that the President lied when it says, right there in the story, that nobody ever asked him in the first place.

    Hell, the administration's position was that "there was no record of the two of them living together" and that's it – and if you took that to mean that "there's no way it ever happened" then that's your own fault. Not everything gets recorded. At worst, this was just sloppy handling by White House press, who didn't confirm the results of their research with the President before sending it to the media.

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. Bill Danko

    Something doesn't smell right! It amazes me that we would allow someone who has lived here illegally continue to live in our country. The fact that the President knew this guy and likely knew he was living here illegally is very disappointing. The corruption continues...

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. mdcambridge

    No excuse.

    December 6, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Culturechange

    So he lied. I find it odd that this comes out as Nelson Mandela dominates the news.

    December 6, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. ratherbboating

    What else has he been lying about??? This is something you democrats need to ask yourself.

    December 6, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. Matthew

    They tell so many lies; it's difficult for everyone in the Administration to remember the script.

    December 6, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  12. John

    Ardie, this country isn't even 400 years old.

    December 6, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. PtBarnumBoy

    It's time for impeachment. Where a person has slept or visited 40 years ago is something so important it just can't be overlooked.

    December 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Barbara

    Yes he did it says it says so in the Boston Papers.

    December 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. Col B

    The big deal is that he lied saying he never met him, then denied ever talking with him. Now the EH says, "nobody ever asked him." Wow, another lie to the American people. He did not want to be associated with his Uncle. I wonder what great stories that guy could tell us about ODUMA.

    December 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  16. Name Jeff

    Boy things just get worse and worse for this nutjob President.

    December 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. VJ

    This should not be in news....

    December 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  18. chuck

    it's a big deal because he said he never met him. No racism, just stupidity on your part.

    December 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Githm

    Yes. Our political leaders should be truthful. That's the key to being a successful politician. The POTUS should be an honest, truthful man. Like all the presidents before Obama were. Truthful and honest. Like most people are. History will show you this country was built on truth and honesty. We cannot allow our political leaders to be dishonest. Take a stand and only vote for honest, truthful politicians.

    December 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  20. Harold Weisenheimer

    What's next.....his real birth certificate is actually a notch carved in a tree somewhere in Kenya?

    December 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. Conservative

    I demand that my President is uncompromisingly honest, but I have no strong opinion regarding the integrity of his moral judgments and their expression in his policies.

    December 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. deee510

    Is there something illegal about staying with an African uncle in Massachusetts? lol

    December 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. wow

    another lie or whatever, yay liberals!

    December 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. na3

    Yawn.. more lies from the white house. Next?

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  25. Kevin

    I believe Jay Carney. Don't you?

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
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