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. Spaz

    LIES! More proof that Obama is a liar.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Joe


    There are a number of problems with this. First his staff spoke on an issue that they were not fully briefed, this alone shows incompetence and those staffers responsible should be fired for a lack of ethics. Secondly, if we are to assume the story true, and the words did not come from the president, then I find it difficult to believe that the president did not hear the claim that he had never met his uncle. This story was huge when it broke as well as that claim. It was in every news article, so the president would have had to have been truly sheltered from the outside world for the claim not to reach him. If it truly didn't reach him then alright, there is no blame to lay on President Obama, but plenty to lay on the people he has working for him. If it did reach him and he failed to correct the statements he his just as guilty as his staff and even more ethically in the wrong for continuing to support a falsehood simply to protect his image.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. eddhur

    he didn't know he did

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

    I'm astounded at those posting that this is a non-issue. It's a huge bold faced lie that can't be denied or hidden from.

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Vlad

    Lair, lair, pants on fire!

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. The New Republican

    Why is it that when the Obama administration does something bad, all the dems come out and blame Bush. Yes, Bush was a crappy president but that gives no excuse for Obama or anyone else. Wake up people! Obama=Bush=Clinton. They are all the same and the R or the D in front of a name makes no difference...only created to divide the people so we don't have a chance to overthrow this BS. is Bushs much as it is Obamas fault. They're all buddies. Get it? Quit being so stupid!

    December 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. wd

    Seriously? This is NEWS? Must be a really slow news day. To report something like this makes me think that a bunch of high school kids are running this website as a class project.

    December 6, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. Barry

    This is a big deal. It shows that Obama only cares about the truth when it advances his agenda or his career. What else will he admit towhen there wont be as much political damage to him or his policies?

    December 6, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Reasonable Guy

    Its the bold faced lying that is the problem, not that he lived with his father. If he would lie about such a trivial thing, what else would he lie about.

    December 6, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. Chris

    This is just like David Lynch and Twin Peaks....keep saying and doing more and more outrageous things and see just how far you can push people until they just stop watching.

    No one asked the President? God, we are all too foolish for words

    December 6, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Mike L

    in agreement with others who voted for this liar 2X, it just seems to get worse and worse, when the simple things in life are lied about- the pathos seems to run deep and deeper, wow-

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. josh

    no big deal.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Joshua

    What does this have to do with anything? The media making mountains out of mole hills. Does it honestly matter where he lived for a few month when he was in college? How does that chance or help the outcome of the world today? There are people screaming "HE LIED HE LIED" where I don't disagree, but there is a difference between saying I didn't have a ham sandwich (when in fact I did) for lunch compared to saying there are W.M.D.'s in Iraq (When there weren't). One has larger consequences then the other drastically so.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  14. rwhite

    Is obama a compulsive liar or just a convenience liar. No wonder none of the world leaders respect him.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. JJ

    The multiple fabrications of truth are catching up to Mr. Obama now.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. William

    This president is human garbage. I wish the very worst for him and his family.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. brianl

    I knew there was nothing to this. Carney clarified "nobody spoke to the president" so of course he didn't know. In addition, it seems perfectly reasonable that the POTUS didn't bother to correct any of his minions after they initially denied it. Gotta go now, I have a 50 gallon barrel of Kool Aid I need to drink.

    December 6, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. Enuff Already

    How many times do we catch him in a lie before something is done about it. This man has no integrity and does not deserve to be in the office of President.

    December 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Landon

    You mean to tell me they spoke on obamas behalf without even asking him. And you mean to tell me after obama see it in the news that he has never met his own uncle he does not correct the record. Please another one of the white house lies.

    December 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. mrbobo

    You mean he lied? Surprise! Surprise!

    December 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. BJ

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

    It's front page news ONLY because it's another example of misinformation, or perhaps outright lying, directly from the White House.

    December 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. kiddingme

    But as "in touch" as President Obama is with people and media, I'm sure he heard about it even if no one consulted him first. Why didn't he just say then, "Hey guys, you're wrong! I did live with my uncle..."??????

    December 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Ridiculous

    Water board Obama...find out what he does know!

    December 6, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. alfonds

    SETH–It's not about Obama having lived with his uncle it's about Obama denying that he didn't. Pay attention to the subject–the subject is that someone LIED!! Get it?

    December 6, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. Gene

    Now is a good time for Obama to make a "reversal" on many other items.. the list would be very long.

    December 6, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
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