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. daeh ttub

    Tea Party and Right-Wing nutjob heaven here. That said, President Obama needs to fire some of the idiots on his staff. Seriously. Who needs enemies when he has staff members that just serve up fat ones to the nutjob right.

    December 6, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Maria

    This is a minor story. It doesn't matter to me whether my President lived with an uncle (who also happened to be in the country illegally) for 2 weeks in the 1980s. That does not bother me. What bothers me is that just 2 years ago, when the uncle's status came to light, and this administration was asked about it, they answered on behalf of my President without bothering to ask him about whether it was true. Doesn't anyone consider that wrong? Seriously! I voted for our President and I expect more than this. It makes me wonder how many other questions have been answered on behalf of the President without actually asking him what the truth was.

    December 6, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. ShawnDH

    Yawn. Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Jean

    So, Pres. Obama stayed at his uncles house for a short time till his college apartment was ready... , what?, twenty five, thirty years ago..., and that means?? Good grief, the stupidity never ends! Meaningless and trivial not to mention forgettable. Just shows the lengths the haters will go to try and find anything, ANYTHING , against this president.

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. the common sense guy

    who cares. what is the point?

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. MontanaTrace

    Obama lied?

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. DarrellSF

    I give up. If THIS is news, no wonder our country is in the crapper. I mean, seriously! Get a life and get back to the real problems of this world. Starvation, Poverty, Unemployment, Abuse, etc. This is nothing but worthless drivel!

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. truthmachine74

    They based their initial answer of his book instead of just asking him...what kind of two bit operation are they running in the WH?

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. Denise


    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. Scott

    What a non-story. 3 weeks is not living with someone, it is a long visit. My mother-in-law visits, she has never lived with me.

    December 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Todd

    Obama didn't lie. He just got his staff to do it for him.

    Give me a break. Can this man ever speak the truth. We all know politicians lie, but what is different with Obama is how everyone gives him a break when he is caught red-handed in a lie.

    December 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. GetOverItAfricaIsBeautifulToo

    why is Obama trying to distance himself from his biological family from his father side? His father was a Kenyan from Africa, what is the big deal about it Obama? Never be ashamed of where you came or you may lack the courage necessary to guide you where you want to go. That is all I have to say, be proud of African heritage just as you are proud of your Caucasian heritage from your mother side. Never be ashamed of your parents lineage whatever it might be. Thank you.

    December 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Greenspam

    Should there be hearings to find out what Obama knew and whether he was abetting a criminal without reporting to the authority?

    December 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Government Waste Rules

    Obama is a total liar or is completely clueless or both. Take your pick.

    December 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. truthmachine74

    They never tell Obama anything and evidently they never ask him anything either so it begs the question, what does the president do all day?

    December 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Clarke

    So what! At the end of the day, what does it matter.

    December 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  17. JL

    Nice distraction CNN. Who cares. 100 million are going to be adversely affected by Obamacare. Are you really trying to make as much out of this lie as that one? What about the Benghazi White House reversal. Still waiting for you guys to dig into that.

    December 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  18. Ted Brooks

    The fact that another untruth has been uncovered is nothing new anymore.

    December 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  19. midas360

    He's so full of it. Anyone that believes this guy is a m.o.r.o.n.

    December 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. disanitnodicos

    Obama didn't know he had lived with his uncle until he read about it in the newspaper.

    December 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Guy Baez

    Who cares, except Obama looks like more of a liar than ever.

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  22. Chris

    Why is this really important and who gives a crap other then Fox News.

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. Tim Smith

    Big deal. Nobody cares. A non news item, more like something overheard from the corner homeless man ranting at the traffic.

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  24. Luisa

    Even thought Obama is the president, he did not influenced in the Uncle's immigration status!! Helloooo wake up CNN!

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. midas360

    Sooner or later the White House is going to say "Obama Was NOT Born in America. President Not Asked"

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
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