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. Anonymous

    Perhaps some of you calling the President a liar would like to give us some indication as to why this is even news at all. Who Cares?

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. chukwudi

    and this is headline front page news.. wonder why i still bother coming on this web site. seems like you guys have nothing to say then u come up with some random excuse of a news. pathetic

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. Bob

    Strange. Why lie about this? In fact, why does this President feel compelled to lie so much?

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Lieseeker


    IMPEACH Makes me sick to my spline...

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. GG

    " where he has lived illegally for the past five decades" Thanks Mr President for your honesty. Seems to be never ending......Next!

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. S

    Really… WHO CARES…and this article is relevant because? Please enlighten me with material about a breakthrough in science or a new medical cure. Not about the President “who wasn't the President at the time staying with his illegal non-citizen uncle. “ Ain’t Nobody got time for that”.

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Vusani

    I guess this is what passes for a scandal these days. GOTCHA!

    December 6, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. Harry Cline

    Mr. President,

    First of all you now have sealed a Republican win in 2016, in fact they could run Bozoo the clown and when against even Jesus.
    Secondly you are starting to make Ronald Reagan's plausible denial scenario look legit.

    Like Bill Clinton you ruin your legacy. We Americans have a short memory but what we always do remembr are the screw ups.

    December 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Craig

    OMG, impeach him! If I had his job and people pounced on everything i did and didn't do I would lie too. He!! the rest of us are just so honest.

    December 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. spudnik56

    Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  11. bskb

    But don't worry, despite lying about his uncle and "if you like your doctor you can keep him" and "if you like your insurance, you can keep it, the president has not lied about anything else, he swears.

    December 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. Mark R.

    WHY on earth is this news. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything relevant to current events, our country, our future, or anything even remotely associated prudent policy. CNN has lost all credibility.

    December 6, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. Rianner

    I know nothing, I see nothing – Hogans Heroes aka Barak Obama

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. more2bits

    Obama is a pathological liar and is incapable of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. Sean P

    It's funny that CNN is breaking this story, and not FNC. Next time anyone wants to criticize FNC for attacking the president, remember this.

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. brian

    a politican lied or omitted the whole story to spin it their way...

    time to impeach him.

    ( at least we'd have to elect an entirely new congress as well since they aren't any better )

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. Nathan

    Wont be able to sleep at night; knowing my president shameful this is.

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Al

    Obama to make news announcement.

    He was not aware that he lived with his uncle until he saw it on the news.

    December 6, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Oscar

    He is Not lying this time !!!!!! I swear !!!!!! He had no idea this was going on behind his back !!!! How dare you America, this man is a saint !!!

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. PappyCHULO

    umm, did anyone consult with the president to verify that he was actually born in the US?!?! or did they get that from the book as well?!?

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. nottelling

    and this is news because...? who cares?!

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  22. Bill Smells

    The truth is out there.

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  23. john

    So the truth finally comes out. Why am I not surprised? This administration has been a lie from day one.

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. Rianner

    @anonymous It matters because it shows the President caught in another blatant lie, trying to distance himself from his illegal immigrant and law-breaking uncle. He knew his uncle was illegal when staying with him.

    December 6, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. Zack

    Another lie... This is my shocked face :-0

    We in Massachusetts are very familiar with uncle Omar... The liquor store clerk who lives in section 8 housing, abuses welfare and EBT cards, also receives Mass health and medicaid, and is a habitual offender of drunk driving laws.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69