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. Jason

    Obama lied? That's a shocker.

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  2. Angie

    One more lie on top of another, sickening.

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. Bill

    That's okay. Just stack that lie on top of the pile of lies Obama has told during his presidency. It's small, so it won't take up much room on that gigantic pile!

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  4. Chad

    Did the President lie, or did his press secretary make false statement? People keep saying impeachmeant, but I do not think it means what they think it means. It was a mix up, the President hardly has a reason to lie about living with his uncle. And what are all these, puroprted lies that could lead to an impeachmeant? Mostly racists and sour grapes. Until the GOP can get their stuff together, they should be ready to not be in the White House for a very, very, long time.

    December 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. hurtsdonut

    Ever notice that when it is something positive about obama CNN uses his name, but when it is embarassing they refer to "the White House". As if lying is something that happened to him rather than something he did.

    December 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Jason

    Obama was never asked about it? Really? I suspect that too is a LIE just like most things this president says.

    December 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  7. Asch13

    Now I find out that the President is not only a LIAR of the first degree on something that isn't even important, but he is also totally HEARTLESS toward his own uncle. (unless that story about not having contact for past 19 years is another LIE) Every couple of months it seems that my first instinct about this guy is true and continues to be validated; I JUST DON'T TRUST THIS GUY. I had that same feeling about Richard Nixon and continue to have that feeling about Bill Clinton. Bill and the president seem like decent blokes; but I don't think I would trust them to watch my pets. Why would he even lie about something like this anyway. Especially when he knows beyond any reasonable doubt that the truth will eventually come out? This type of personality is really dangerous. And one more thing; how in the world does Jake Carney ever face himself in the mirror.

    December 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. nonyabidnes2

    This is done all the time. When my daughter wanted to go to a better school, I sent her to live with her grandparents. They even though two miles away were in a different school district

    December 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. bracey in Illinois

    "C. Curtis" every issue does not need to come back to his skin color you know? The fact that this guy has been caught in so many lies shows his true whether a big lie or a small lie his character shows all of you that he is " a Illinois politiciian" who will do anything to win politically and to think otherwise would be naive. He was brought up in the most corrupt area of politics (Chicago) and to think that some of that did not rub off would be foolish. He gives great speeches but "in the action department" he is lacking managemant ability and possible communication ability plain and simply he is not a good leader and it has become apparrent even to the media which last year was not asking the tough questions like they are now.

    December 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. bob

    Why all the lies? If you lie about the little things that no one cares about, it makes it easier to lie about larger issues.

    December 6, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  11. Gary

    All presidents lie. Like Bill Gunter said, no big surprise here.

    December 6, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. Dr, Jack

    For all of these truth avoiders, it matters a LOT!!!

    It isn't important that he lived with his uncle, even for a short time, but it matters that he AGAIN has proven to be either a LIAR or hiding something.

    Firstly how could the WH initially deny that they ever met, without "consulting" the President??

    But even more important, when the denial was issued, he surely read it as everyone else.

    Why didn't Obama clarify the matter then????

    Skating around the truth seems to be a PATTERN of his character!!

    December 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. Debra

    You just have to laugh at this. How embarrassing that they are still lying about why they lied in the first place. Too funny. We all knew the truth back then. No need to explain it now, it's too late. And they still think people don't respect this administration because Obama is part black. Um, that isn't why....

    And blah blah to Ardie. Every group was oppressed at one time in this world since DAY ONE. Whatever group you are part of is NO MORE SPECIAL than any other group.

    December 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. r

    its not racism but it definetly shows a pattern with this President. maybe this is why he wants all illegals to get a pass like his uncle – for those who do it the right way we get the shaft and pay for those bucking the system – fair??

    December 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. Jeb

    Why does this matter?

    December 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. tony b

    biggest liar since dick nixon

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. Lee

    It has nothing to do with racism!!! It has to do with him being a LIAR!!! He is a LIAR!! I know all politicians lie - but not to his level. He said he never met his Uncle - now it turns out he lived with him for 3 weeks. Why does he lie over stuff like this? That is all he does is LIE!!! Worst President in history of Country!!

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Chris K

    comes to them too easily!

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Jim8

    Fox News will now have something to talk about that means absolutely nothing.

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. frank

    @Chad Really? Maybe he wanted to distract attention away from the possibility he was born in Kenya?

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. MrsFizzy

    That's silly but a spokesperson could have made the statement not the President personally. People talking about impeachment over this... you are grasping at straws.

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. P

    What else has he and the W H lied about. They represent this country and its people and therefore should be extremely transparent. It is sadly not the case!!!! Needs to get fixed!!!

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Allinstride

    Never met him. Oh, I guess I lived with him. Obama lied again. What else is new?

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  24. mgordon7

    Go back to what Richard Nixon did. He lied about what he knew to cover up for his friends. Presidents not telling the entire truth about something should be cause for alarm as it speaks to their character.

    December 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  25. DonTheGreen

    I never wrote a book about meeting my family. Therefore I must never have met my family. Go figure.

    December 6, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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