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. i12bphil

    Interesting how some people posting have the excuse "who cares" (which isn't an excuse, but a cop out) while others justify one person's lies by saying someone else lied (which is a logical fallacy). The fact is, it matters, and what one person says or does doesn't justify what another person says and does. If I lie, it isn't OK just because some guys before me lied too.

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Greg_Illinois

    I'm just wondering why his uncle never adjusted his status.He has been here since the early 60's the and Reagan's amnesty was in 1986 and at that point he would have been eligible for his status adjustment and he was illegal for such a long time unless he had done something major that stopped him from applying. I have a feeling there is more to his story than they tell us.

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. holam

    lol, imagine that??

    December 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Somebody42

    What is the problem as an American and proud republican I do not care if they met or spoke

    December 6, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. anchorite

    OMG this is the most shocking scandal since I got decaf instead of caffeine at the cafe down the hall.

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

    At least he consistent. He lies about everything.

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  7. attorney

    How many times will the White House deny the President's knowledge about everything. I am sure he is too busy getting his family ready for their next vacation to South Africa to worry about this.

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Lou45

    Great, just like his aunt that over stayed her visa another free loading Obama relative on the public doll! That along with making the White House a multiple family dwelling, bankrupting America and getting us to the verge of WW III with the Chinese.

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. James R Hoffa

    Imagine that, Obama lied about something else.

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. Ra Khan

    Cool! More pointless news to make birther bigots who support Canadian candidates for US President say stupid things about the President again... THANKS CNN! I'm sure this will get the Pulitzer for Suck. Thanks to articles like this more children will grow up thinking the hate driven fear based Bigot mindset of their parents is true. You are so awesome how you report news, the best ever! ((shakes head))

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. scott

    He loves his Uncle?

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Tim John

    Have him sign up for Obama Care, yes OBAMA Care, because if it was "affordable" I wouldn't now be paying a $2500 deductible, $100 more a month and a horrible prescription plan, but I digress, have him sign up for Obama Care and once he sees how much it will cost he will leave us and the Lyin' Hawaiian behind and go back to Kenya.

    December 6, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Mark Spencer

    OMG, people. Move on. The man is the President and there's nothing that's going to change that.

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Patact

    Why the heck does his staff answer questions about his life when they know nothing about his daily lif when he grew up. Mike, that is the dumbest answer I have ever seen. if a question about his early personal life is asked, his staff has no business providing an answer. This is nothing more than an excuse. I agree with hjfarmer. If the President is so incompetent to let his staff and working bees make critical decisions without his knowledge, he should be fired. Any corporate manager would have been fired a long time ago. In addition, if the staff who spoke for him incorrectly was wrong, why the hell didn't Obama correct the answer publicly back then? I guess he never heard of the controversy huh?

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. m123

    Why would anyone believe this liar pres when he knew Obamacare would cause millions of people to lose their insurance and lied about that dozens of times over years
    And what about any of his promises?
    Only brain dead Obama drones would believe this fool

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. No wonder Obama supports illegal immigration

    No wonder Obama supports illegal immigration ... family members he lived with before law school are here illegally! He can't support the LAWS of our country because he has a conflict of interest ...

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. ricardo1968

    It is the height of incompetence to an assumption about this without asking the president. That's almost as bad as lying.

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. francesca duff

    Much ado about nothing. Obama is a great president. Nothing you can do or say will change that. It is a travesty that he is treated so shabbily.

    December 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Dan Smith

    As long as the historical record shows that some prior president has lied, it is ok and should be accepted as standard business for Obama.

    As long as the historical record shows that some prior president has mismanaged a big federal project, is is ok and should be accepted as standard business for Obama.

    This is a great way to excuse any failures, due to incomptence or any other reason.

    Image the excuses that the next president will be able to use. Obamas is providing new excuses and he should be proud of that.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. SRO

    You wonder what he does all day since he doesn't know about anything that's going on in the country.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. the common sense guy

    really?? did he use the bathroom while he was there? some folks just create misery

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

    "Nobody spoke to the President."
    Nobody spoke to the President?
    Nobody spoke to the President!

    Or maybe they did, and he just doesn't listen.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Whiskey Bumps

    We are getting used to having a president who lies to his masters. Maybe lying should not be held against him. New standards are at play.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. watch out

    Watch out Michelle and the girls, when asked, he may just say he forgot about living with you.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. Seth

    WHO CARES IF HE LIVED WITH HIS UNCLE?!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe this is front page news.

    December 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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