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. nmdave

    This wannabe Mandel will never understand that first you must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. Tony C

    I trust nothing this administration says. I am beginning to believe that the entire Democratic platform is built on lies and deceit to gain power and money. Sing the song the poor want to hear while collecting their money.

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. michiganfan

    ...and what does the Uncle get as punishment for breaking the law for so many years? Not a damn thing...and don't tell me Obama didn't know his Uncle was here illegally...and we shouldn't be thing after another, but hey, it's just our big deal...

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. tony b

    what a liar this president is

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Your Dad

    "Nobody spoke to the president." Apparently that includes his handlers, puppeteers, and those who are supposed to speak with him before issuing statements on his behalf. Is there anyone in this mockery of an administration who knows what's going on?

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Uncle Sam

    Well, if the truth needed to known, but you little people can't handle the truth, so we just keep to ourselves.

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Conservative

    There is nothing more damaging to a President's stature than his record about who he lived with and when. If we can't believe that he didn't live with his uncle when he said he didn't, how on Earth are we supposed to evaluate the merits of his policies? How am I supposed to apply rational consideration to his positions when I don't know for sure where he lived growing up?

    December 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. Bahh Weet

    Wow This news is right up there with why that chicken crossed the road.

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. nepalifreethinker

    No one really cares.

    But as usual dump "bad news" on friday.. 🙂

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. DaveinCincy lied....again? there anything this guy has told the truth about? I know liberals don't care about integrity and character....but this guy is just amazing. What an absolute discrace.

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. you

    Go Obama! Keep doing what you're doing whatever it is it's working. You know how I can tell? You're making the repugnicans angry as h ell!!! YES!!! LOL

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Eddiebatt

    More lies to cover up something that would provide truth to the citizenship of bamaliar.

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Bill

    There are only two logical conclusions any reasonable person can reach regarding Obama:

    1) The man is a pathalogical liar and cannot tell the truth. ..even about relatively minor problems like this one.

    2) The man is completely incompetent as a leader and has no idea at all what's going on around him. Major negative events occur frequently and he is almost always in the dark about them. He finds out when we find out.

    Those are the only two options. Take your pick.

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Ken

    This matter with the POTUS and his uncle's living arrangement 33 years ago is a NON-ISSUE. There are a million things that supercede this topic !!!

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. conchytonker

    If Barack was ever caught telling the truth.....THAT WOULD BE EARTH SHATTERING NEWS!

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Jack 2

    This is what you call lies catching up to you. benghazi, Obamacare and now this.

    December 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. Bob

    Seriously? How much of a pathological liar is this man? He can't even tell the truth about inconsequential things. What an utter disgrace we have in the White House.

    December 6, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. Gregory Michael

    Why is this news? WHO CARES?

    December 6, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. keeth

    This is worse than Iran-Contra!

    December 6, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. concernedcitizen81

    I think the question many have is that if the President isn't lying, then why does he keep getting caught up in public issues that none of his staff seem to bother to discuss with him? NSA spying on our allies? Nah, don't bother the president with that. His signature Healthcaregov site not going to be ready in time? That's not important enough to mention to him either. The GOP is asking if he knows his illegal uncle? It takes too long to ask him, just go with your gut feeling and tell the press that. I'm not naive enough to think presidents, politicians and administrations don't lie, but this one has a knack for getting caught – or at least claiming to not being in the know.

    December 6, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. Kathy, AZ

    WAH! WAH! WAH! -- Whine all ya want GOPers. WHO CARES?? We're WINNING!!!

    December 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. josh

    oh of COURSE Obama had no idea and of courseee its not his fault its neverrrr his fault. He's a) the biggest liar ever or b) the most incompetent president ever since clearly he NEVER knows whats going on. This country is doomed

    December 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. E

    It's not his real uncle just a composite of several uncles....

    December 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Justin

    Who cares? He will serve his term and someone will replace him. How does that affect his job as president?

    December 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. jim bagrowicz

    It was just a pure lie. I did not expect that president Obama would do so. However, he did. That is bad.

    December 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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