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. Nathan

    Oh my our president lied??

    December 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. Me

    This President is a pathological lair. He fits right in with all you liberal Democrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. patty51

    I am so sick of being told the president did not know. Seriously, it is not helping him. All it shows me is that he is either a liar or he is incompetent and his staff is running things.

    December 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. ROB

    Amazing. Yet another thing this worthless excuse for a president knows nothing about.

    December 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Truth

    Insert standard response:

    "I had no idea, but I'm mad as hell about it."

    -B. Hussein Obama

    December 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Qualitycontrol

    fox cnn one of the same...

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. coalminds

    I cannot fathom that people are making light of a President whose job it is to protect our borders pretending not to know his illegal alien uncle that he LIVED with prior to going to LAW SCHOOL.

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. JulieMS

    The LIES just keep coming. He will have a legacy all right, LIAR LIAR !!

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. mecheng

    What makes this a story is the righteous indignation of the left when he was elected. The "Bush lied and thousands died" garbage all the while creaming yourselves about how you get a tingle up your leg when ever Obama talks – the garbage about "the most transparent presidency" – blah blah blah – the left has become a constant, running joke

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. mick

    It's amazing how the president doesn't seem to know whats going on in government or in his own life. I'd rather he just say "yeah I knew, no, didn't want to tell anyone."

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. Psterry

    Some people commenting here want to believe that because it was the "White House" that said there was no record of him meeting this uncle, that the President didn't lie. Have you ever heard of "lies by omission?" Obama knew what the White House said, yet he didn't choose to tell the truth until his uncle was in danger of not being allowed to remain here. So up until now he is guilty of "lies by omission". He chose not to tell the truth.

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. SteakAndRoses

    Once again, the 24 hour news cycle serves up a giant headline about nothing. Sigh.....

    December 6, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. patty51

    How far has the President nose grown? He must not be able to hold his head up with all the lies he is telling.

    December 6, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Esteban

    So if you are here illegally and get cought you are sent back to your country and can no longer ever, ever, come back to the US, but if your nephew hapens to be the leader of the free world..... sure you can stay....... but if you have small children who are citizens and you are here illegally your children can and must stay you need to leave....uhmmmmmm!

    December 6, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. Wanda Swinton

    Considering this worthy of national media attention shows just how racist modern society still is. Considering the passing of Nelson Mandela, this article was quite sobering. If Obama's uncle was from Scotland or Australia or Great Britain, there would be no story. Thanks CNN. needed a reality check on just how far we have to go in race relations....

    December 6, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Tony Torres

    Who gives a damn! Does it matter? No, it does not. Why does CNN chase non stories? I use to really think CNN was a good source for news but for the past years it seems that CNN is running around like a chicken sans head and reports on things that are trivial or non news to the rest of us. This story is a prime example of a fill in story if you want to call it anything but it sure as hell in not news worthy. Once again, who cares whether Mr Obama lived or not lived with his Uncle? I guess only the rightwing nuts that will try and make this an insult to our President. Thanks for nothing CNN.

    December 6, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    This is the top story on CNN...journalism is literally going up in flames.

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

    Obama lied about nothing. Who cares if he lived with an uncle or did not live with an uncle for 3 weeks years ago? Does any of this impact something? Really! Some of you just want to rant. Maybe we should conduct a grand jury investigation. Maybe the Republicans can appoint a special committee and conduct hearings. Spare me.

    December 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  19. Big Daddy

    I'm stunned that any sensible person would believe another explanation involving "we didn't talk to the President about it". How many times will American apologists accept a line that clearly does not pass the smell test. Politics aside, one of two things is true, it can't be any other way. Either:
    1. The President really wasn't consulted on this...and the IRS and NSA scandals...and Fast and Furious, etc., OR,
    2. The President WAS consulted on all of these things, and has lied about it.

    It can't be anything else. In either case, most of the world outside of American Democrats are realizing that Mr. Obama's administration is clearly tainted beyond what a normal Presidency would be.

    December 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. lvsingleton

    Not a fan of this president and even I say Who Cares.

    December 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. Nathan

    Things happen in life; we cant seem to explain.

    December 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Bill

    Really? Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Liar liar pants on fire.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Kathy

    I expected so much more from Obama when I voted for him. I sincerely thought he would be different!!!! So when CAN I believe what the President says? You can minimize lying all you want. I didn't like Bush, Clinton, Nixon lying so why should it be okay for Obama? Where is honesty and integrity? Oh yeah, the Jersey Shore generation could give a s**t about integrity. His Uncle was and is an ILLegal immigrant. Refuses to leave for 20 years...and so now, he gets to stay????? What a SLAP in the face for the legal immigrants that did what the US government asked. I thought if you broke the law and you were were deported. I voted for Obama in the 1st election....but not the 2nd due to the statement from Pelosi "you have to pass Obamacare to know what is in it". Well, now we know. This administration is NOTHING but liars, deny until proven a liar and then say I didin't know, stall minimize, deflect. It makes people with integrity angry.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. alfonds

    I have to say,"What's good for the goose....", Obamas' uncle has lived in the USA for 18 years (ILLEGALLY).If nothing can be done to deport him, then let all the Mexicans here illegally stay here.All this because no one has the Huevos to deport his uncle.They (the judge(s)) are afraid to lose their job. This here is down and dirty folks, it is as bad as it can get.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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