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. Steve

    While this is a minor story, it's sad how a presidential administration continually lying is accepted as normal (put a D or R, next to it–doesn't matter). And yes, we all read the article. The idea that nobody bothered to ask the President if he knew his uncle before putting out a statement could be considered a mistake if this was the only time it happened, but this is a recurring theme. They wanted to distance themselves from a family member with bad press, but when they get caught in a falsehood, it's seen as acceptable. Sad.

    December 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  2. Jim

    This should help his poll numbers! LOL great note to end the week on mr pres!

    December 6, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. Ulysses-AZ

    Let's face the fact that the President very likely spent his college years categorized and receiving funding as a foreign exchange student. Why? It was they easiest way for him to get his education paid for.

    December 6, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. Wild Omar

    This kind of trivia means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. But it certainly provides fodder for all those who have been challenging President Obama on his role in his uncle's somewhat expedited residency status. It's misteps like this that plague a presidency and take energy and focus away from his agenda.

    December 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  5. Me


    So Obama wasn't up front about where he lived for a while. BIG DEAL!!! Bush tells 935 CONFIRMED LIES about Iraq and not one conservative said a word. it has now been revealed that the reason we went into Iraq was "We need to kick someone's ass, Afghanistan is too easy". So over 4,000 Americans died and tens of thousands are maimed for life just because the war mongering thugs in the Bush administration wanted to throw a little weight around. If this isn't enough to bring Bush and Cheney charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, I don't know what is.
    First, I though liberals were "progressive" you know wanting to move forward and NOT live in the past (Bush has been gone over 5 YEARS NOW)....second, show us PROOF of these so called "Bush tells 935 CONFIRMED LIES about Iraq", don't post something without showing proof WITH that post!!! I will wait for your proof, yep I am sure it will be a long time, cause YOU are the one LYING!!! There is no proof, he went on the information he had, you know calling Bush a liar is like calling pretty much every person in government at that time a liar because almost ALL (yes Ds and Rs) believe Iraq had WMD!! Get a clue! LMFAO

    December 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  6. nice to know

    Now we know the source of the fake Obama social security number from Massachusetts. It wasn't Obama after all, it was his uncle. But, hey, that's okay, he can stay.

    December 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Denise all your predictions the last election? President Romney anyone....

    December 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Cannabus

    YAWN! Isn't this story better suited for Fox News?

    December 6, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Chuck

    Hes embarassed of his real family like most people

    December 6, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Nobama

    So very sick and tired of those making excuses for Obama and always explaining 'WHAT he really meant"

    December 6, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. shelly

    and when the pres heard this information in 2011, he did not feel the need to clarify. he knew then. issues....

    December 6, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. ArchieDeBunker

    More and more as time goes on Obismal shows that his true designation is: LIAR IN CHIEF.

    December 6, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. mcad

    I suppose Obama didn't know he lived with his uncle until he read it in the news.

    December 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. hey you

    "Carney retracted that information Thursday saying that the President himself had never been consulted about their relationship."

    December 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. BobbyG

    This is a white lie to cover up something that is not a big deal at all but the right would have ran crazy with it. It was 2 yrs ago that major news outlets were still reporting on the POTUS's birth certificate to satisfy the most ignorant among us crazy thirst for conspiracy. There are more important things to concentrate on and this is a distraction to keep people away from serious issues.

    December 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. pockets

    I'm sure glad Bush never lied about smoking crack and being a drunk, OH and about that Iraq war that cost 55,000 American lives.....well sleeping over that the Uncle's is not such a big issue now is it. LOLOL

    December 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Denise

    I think Donald Trump need to get his detectives back on the case.....Maybe Ted Cruz could hold a hearing on the hill....

    December 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. ArchieDeBunker

    How long do you suppose it will be until we find out that the birth certificate was as phony as "anyone who likes their health insurance will be able to keep it?"

    December 6, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  19. Steve


    December 6, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  20. Me


    The lengths the media will go to make an Obama bashing story. Keep working on it this one is really irrelevant.
    The lengths liberal partisan hacks will go to defend any lie Obama tells.... Keep up the good covering up!!! LMFAO

    December 6, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Bill

    Don't see too many positive comments Mr. President. In fact, most comments say you don't tell the truth too often. Do you care to explain this to the people who are paying you. Paying for your vacations. You know, it doesn't take too much to tell the truth 100% of the time – and it will make you feel better inside. Something you are probably lacking – feeling good inside.

    December 6, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  22. susan

    Lets hear some more WH reversals on this charltan... How about where you were born sir?????? Please hurry 2016!!!!!

    December 6, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  23. gregrobert

    Are people NEVER going to get it through their leaden heads that ALL politicians lie? Especially presidents. Everyone of them.

    We have no one to blame for this but ourselves.

    People are so stupid politicians have to lie just to tell the truth.

    December 6, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. Denise

    Maybe Gallup can do another poll........President

    December 6, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. Peggy

    Big whoop!

    December 6, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
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