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. jo2

    OOOOH, Republicans "we got him now" Finally something that will stick

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. HenryMiller

    "Nobody spoke to the President."

    Yeah, right.

    Obama is a compulsive liar, even when the lies serve no apparent purpose.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. quidestveritas

    Kathy, AZ, because it's all just a game..."us against them" politics as team sports after all, right. considering the country is basically divided 50-50, what exactly does it mean if "we win and you lose"? what a completely ridiculous comment.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. Jbow

    So if the WH spokesperson states something that Obama knew wasn't true, why wouldn't he correct it instead of just letting it slide? I would still consider that a deception, better known as a lie.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. Jim

    This is the most corrupt president in U.S. history. Another day, another lie. If all these truths had been known I doubt he would ever had been elected president. The White House response that 'it isn't in the record so it didn't happen' is incredible. You could maybe like ask Obama. You might not have gotten a truthful answer but you could have asked him directly.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  6. joey

    Hey Denise...nobody told you either.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. SpgfldTom

    Is someone implying President Obama lied? Oops, I remember he was "misquoted". Does anyone know what "Uncle Omar" has been doing in the years he was living in the U.S. illegally? Did he have a job? Where and doing what? Is he retired now? Collecting Social Security? On the welfare rolls? A great series of questions for some hotshot CNN reporter to ask. Maybe Chris Matthews can clarify for us. Nah, those questions would be trumped by his signature "what's your favorite color, Mr. President".

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Gord

    I really don't care whether he did or didn't live with his uncle.
    The reality is that as a president he's not doing a very good job.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. u laby

    another lie. big surprise.

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Easygoing7

    The President lied again? No... say it ain't so! Hey c,n,n why keeping these comments off of Dis qus? Afraid of too many comments???

    December 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Whiskey Bumps

    Nobody told him he lived with his uncle. His staff never tells him anything. It was a big house, so maybe they didn't really meet while he lived there. His uncle was an illegal for 5 decades and didn't use his real name when he spoke to his nephew. There are lot's of plausible........ or at least explanations for this.

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. Dead bear

    God knows a Republican has never lied, ever about anything in the history of Republicans. They are the most honest, unpredjudiced, and moral people to ever walk the face of the Earth since Jesus Christ himself!!!... Can't wait to see what you're pretending to be offended by tomorrow, hypocrites!

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. paul

    i have been a big supporter of obama but this reversal strikes incredulity!
    come on-" nobody spoke to the President," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
    Carney continued: "Nobody had asked him in the past,
    so nobody in his circle in the past couple years mentioned to POTUS about his uncle?
    do they really think we're that dumb and will buy this?

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. myrtlemaylee

    And this is relevant to anyone outside of the Tea Baggies, why? Is this something that affects the well-being of America? Who gives a flying rat's butt? Which wife was Gingrich screwing around on in the '80's & where was he living? What was his favorite food & what religion was he ignoring? How about Boehner or Cantor? Jesus weeps.

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. lex

    The President lies even on stupid stuff. Crazy. Is he simply a chronic liar? Or is that just want politicians like him do on a regular basis?

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. TickedOff

    The one man that can probably proved Obama was not born in the US. He better watch his back.

    December 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. Lies WillAlwaysHauntYou

    I could care less about his aunt and uncle living in mass illegally. This is an old story for those of us that have actually read about his background. Now if you want to dig into his bogus SSN #, then that's a real story.

    December 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. ben

    who cares?....seriously?

    December 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Mary

    Leave the President alone, please.

    December 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. deek5

    hahaha. More lies. When will it stop

    December 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  21. dani

    Can't say I really care about this, moving on.

    December 6, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. njudgemental

    This is news, all previous cases of Obama lying; there was a legitimate political reason for the lie and thus potentially excusable. This time there was no reason for the lie, president and his men should have told the truth in the beginning and there would have been no political fallout in 2011 or now. This event convinces me that he lies without reason, and is habitual.

    December 6, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. Jamal

    Mr. Obama is the greatest president America has ever had, and he never lies.

    December 6, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. elvinmerij

    What an absolutely stupid thing to dwell upon. Who cares!

    December 6, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. mike

    Can't change the stripes on a tiger or a liar. The story itself is insignificant, the pattern of this administration continuously covering its tracks is significant! Nothing they say or do has any credibility. It is being proven time and time again...almost daily now.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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