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. Sam Lamay

    Look I am an Independent, vote for the best guy regardless of party, why care? Because once again it shows how this president is less than honest. His whole first term he blamed Bush for everything, I inheirted these problems. Now we see the real man, anything for politics. He has lied to the american people, and to the leaders of the world, hacking and spying on our allies. Very sad.

    December 6, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Woodrow

    It goes from "I've never met the man" to he lived with him? How blatant can you get? The pattern is that he'll say ANYTHING in order to get what he wants. He didn't want attention paid to this, so he denied any relationship exists until it can't be denied any longer. Why else would he lie about it (or allow the lie to be put out there) but to remove a 'sticky' part of his life.

    December 6, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. Confucian Scholar

    He lied about this, he lied about knowing Jeremiah Wright too. He said "I didn't set a red line in Syria" after the red line he set was crossed, he lied in Benghazi, and he repeatedly lied about people being able to keep their insurance knowing all along that it was a LIE. He lied about immigration reform, he lied about spying on Americans. and he lied about drones. As if the chronic lying wasn't enough he won't take responsibility for ANYTHING. If the liberal "elite" is so dimwitted as to blindly trust this man...we are headed for the abyss.

    December 6, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. shari

    This Country is in a sad state if all it has to do is worry about whether or not the President lived with his uncle while in college. I mean really come on people....who cares give me a break. Some of you people are so full of hate that it's pathetic. If President Obama said that the sky was blue you would find something wrong with that. Go some place and pray!

    December 6, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Brad

    That staff member needs to own up to the truth: He was there in Obama's Uncle's apartment back in 1979 firing up the doobie right along with em

    December 6, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. capiers

    All of those Obama haters are behaving like children. Saying he is the worst President ever is so misguided by hate that any truth is discounted and all conservative lies are praised as the truth. At least I know there are more Americans that support this guy then there are that don't. So when you whine about him just know it means nothing and will not change the fact that he is our President until 2016 when he hands over the country to another Democrat.

    December 6, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. Joe Smith

    We have to get over using race as issue. We should be able to criticize our elected officials without saying "you're just mad he's black". Remember, 60+% of white people voted for Obama. If I say Marion Barry smoked crack does that mean I cannot say that as he is black? Also, the argument white presidents have done worse is not a valid justification for Obama's behavior. My point is simply we as a people are being lied to every day by our elected officials and we need to say enough regardless of the color of his / her skin.

    December 6, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. The Ole Skool Fool

    Are you really that afraid of us BLACK folk? really why are yall tripping? for over a thousand years yall have lied about everything you could get away with all to be in control and to make money. STOP THE MADNESS NOW!!!! Take some time to learn from Mandela, King, and Ghandi before it is too late. We are trying our best to TOLERATE your insanity.

    December 6, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. John

    This is news? I don't think so. Did Obama lie? I don't think so. Are so many of you Obama haters real, yeah I think so. He has done more for this country than any of you Republicans on here. All you do is hate, hate, and it will get you nowhere, believe me. Most of you seem uneducated and dowright stupid and yeah, I think so.

    December 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Jim Steele

    For Democrats: "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." For the rest of us, he lies about trivial matters.

    December 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. ThinkTank2014

    OMG OMG SMH, SMH, you mean he lived with his uncle? Impeach him! aaaahaaaa. I love Republicans. They r psychos!

    December 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Johnny Boy

    Who cares... This is not news.

    December 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. Midwest Guy

    Obama must be squeaky clean if this is all the media can dig up on him.

    December 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. Luke5323

    We need to cut off all welfare, aid, benifits, public assistance, free education etc, for illegal aliens,
    which would force them to leave on their own.
    Oppose amnesty now. Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
    Once you are registered (join us), go to the "action board"

    December 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. He's A Chronic Liar

    Chronic liar. Can't tell the truth about anything. Unbelievable.

    December 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. P365Sailor

    Like lots of things Obama says...half truth, misleading...sure, you can keep your current insurance... We expected a lot when he was elected...only disappointment has reigned supreme.

    December 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Something else the president didn't know anything about?

    December 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Mary

    FINALLY – the truth comes out. All of America was lied to from day one. Is anybody sick of this clown's lies to the voters? Why didn't the democratic political machine tell the voters the truth? American politics is as corrupt as every other nation in the world. Trouble we are supposed to be better.

    December 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. Wes

    PERFECT day to release another "lie". Bad weather across the nation, Friday, Mandela death all dominate the news. Will all be forgotten by Monday. Genius.......

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Butch McSnutch

    It's odd that the only illegal alien he isn't pandering to is his uncle.

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. cheya

    Amazing that the day Nelson Mandela die, this make the front page of CNN....

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Antuan

    I wouldn't say "who cares" counts as an excuse. It's just an opinion. If a person you barely knew asked you if they should paint their room khaki or cream, you'd probably think, "who cares". If Sarah Palin came out with a new book you weren't going to read, and someone told you she came out with that book, you would say "who cares". If you see a piece of news about the president's personal life that doesn't really matter to you, the individual, you would say "who cares". I read this article and thought relatively the same thing. "Who cares." This isn't the first thing he lied about. It would be the last. Do i care about this one minor thing when there are much bigger lies to worry about? No.

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. harryo666

    I am no real Obam fan but this is the most unworthy news article not just on the planet but possibly also in the galaxy. This is exactly why this country is slowly falling into a black hole–no comprehension of priorities. It's also not credible that Obam wld even lie over something so trivial–you can accuse him of lots of things, but stupid he's not.

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. Unknown

    Oh my, he lived with his uncle! This makes him the worst man since Hitler! I

    December 6, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  25. Wes

    and this is news because???????????????????

    December 6, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
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