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. not quite right heads roll now then? or is this like when you tell your parents 25 years later that you wrecked their car when you were 16?

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    ha, the police ask black people to speak up all the time and all they get is bs, silence or more work at another crime scene...welcome to the USA where the most pregidest people are black.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. ajz

    impeach the traitor.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. Reason & Logic

    All I can say is that GW Bush never clarified his "AWOL" status while in the Alabama ANG and no one seemed the least bit bothered by it.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. JD

    Let's maintain some perspective here. If you want to rip Obama for the debacle, selective IRS scrutiny of non-profits, Benghazi, etc., by all means do so. He deserves it. I fear this "uncle Obama" revealation will do nothing more than distract our collective conscience from the many important things the President and Congress need to accomplish.

    Furthermore, nobody died because Obama wasn't forthcoming about living with his uncle. 4,000 troops are dead, countless more Iraqi civilians dead and troops injured, and $1 trillion or more spent because your guy W and his minions "cooked" the intellegence regarding Iraqi WMDs. Again, let's keep some perspective.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. penel9

    Why on earth would anyone lie about such a thing? He's a liar. I can do without liars.

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. themediaisajoke

    Seriously, why is this important? There are much bigger issues with this country than someones uncle...

    December 6, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. guy

    Did he ever pay TAXES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Lies WillAlwaysHauntYou

    I would put some cash down on that's not even his uncle, if you watch the YT vids about comparing him to Malcolm x, not that would be a story too, but I don't expect to see it on this site.

    December 6, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. ab

    " Oh my! These issues that are no one's business and irrelevant to the presidents ability to run the country are completely out of order!" Said no one ever- accept for the idiots who need something to hold on to..

    December 6, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. golfer 21387

    I am shocked, shocked that our President lied......again.

    December 6, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  12. Matt

    I don't care if he knew or didn't know his uncle. I care that this President lies and avoids taking any responsibility for the failures of his Presidency.

    December 6, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Cesar

    So what .....he lived under Romney care and was illegal what so are many others. Heck that Canadian born Cuban Cruz and his family lived on welfare also.

    Obama is the president today and will be tomorrow and the next three years regardless of what you right winger loons think.

    December 6, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  14. Muri

    This just in: Politicians lie, miss speak, and obfuscate messages.

    Most of the bros of the interwebs think it was a good story.

    The other bros are mad, however the outrage is obviously manufactured as this is not really a new thing.

    December 6, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    plenty of Muslim dictators out

    December 6, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. Gandlny

    This is only important if the uncle was selling arms to contras or hiding Saddam's WMD.

    December 6, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. Alarming, but...

    Um, yes, it looks like he lied. Hello? He's a politician.
    Tell me again. How many people DIED because of this lie?

    Now, his drunken, cokehead, AWOL, C-student, frat-boy PREDECESSOR, on the other hand....

    Let's talk about WMD "lies." Let's talk about 4400 dead American servicemen and women, and a coupla hundred thousand Iraqi civilians.

    Cue right-wing Lie Machine.

    December 6, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  18. mshabazz09

    Who really cares? I have a neighbor who has her grand daughter living with her so she doesn't have to pay room and board. It's just stupid to even make this an issue.

    December 6, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. Graeme from Ottawa

    so what, at least he was not AWOL

    December 6, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  20. Steve Whitten

    So he STAYED with his Uncle for 3 weeks over 20 years ago while waiting for his apartment. Were's the crime?

    December 6, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  21. roger

    Just another lie that Obama has made and got caught in. How can you trust a person when you know he constantly lies? Unfortunately it's the whole Democratic party that tends to lie to the public and think nothing of it.

    December 6, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  22. Jamal

    When is the press corps just going to simply stand up and walk out on Karney? Why do they even bother talking to this individual, who obviously doesn't know the truth from that which is not truth.

    December 6, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. biglio

    And....who cares.......this obsession with Obama's life is insane by the right, anything would be used to paint a negative picture of the president, anything. Really is this important? Who cares (except rightwing fringe fanatics). Get a life people!
    Obama got elected twice, give it a rest.

    December 6, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. nc1965

    I'm trying to figure out why this is news.

    Oh, that's right, no news about the website crashing.

    December 6, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. WMesser58

    Really this is considered a story. Gessh imagine someone living with a relative I say impeach him.

    I've heard of slow news days but this takes the cake. How much is this costing the tax payer to investigate this.

    December 6, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
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