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. PeterD

    Obama Liar Liar Your Pants on Fire. Obama and his administration has taken Lying to New Low.

    December 6, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. Wv

    Isn't this the 3rd time that the story has changed?

    December 6, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. Name

    I always thought the whole thing was executive BS. The president should man up and just grant asylum to the guy on the grounds that his uncle would be endangered if he was deported and sent home.

    December 6, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. dnokc

    Found out about it on CNN...just like everybody else.

    December 6, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    It isn't a big lie, but the fact of the matter that the 'White House', which is in charge of making decisions for America never thought to simply ask this question to the person who obviously knew best. This is ridiculous. This was obviously more of a ploy to discredit the President from his Kenyan ancestry in order to sway public opinions, which is deceptive.

    December 6, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. Sandy

    I don't care who Obama lived or lives with. What I care about is how has this uncle been allowed to live in this country 50 years as an illegal. But then Obama is an illegal who became the President so I guess that explains it.

    December 6, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. Go Ravens

    really CNN? This is journalism? There is absolutely nothing odd about this story being a headline? It made good sense to whoever edited this article that this is important in the US right now? Shame you have a job. Shame you are a journalist. Shame I visit this site. There might be an agenda behind this "news" but remember some of us really do have brains.

    December 6, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. dnokc

    Not that long ago owebama told an illegal Korean heckler he had no power in these issues. Guess he evolved again.

    December 6, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. Productive Citizen

    I agree that CNN has been reaching into thin air to pick on Obama. I thought they were as neutral as anyone in the media could be. Who cares who Obama lived with, there are bigger issues out there to focus on!!!!

    December 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. Brian

    Syd, distraction, distraction, distraction. At least Bill had the guts to finally admit about lying. Exactly who cares if he met the uncle. it's gotta be tearing him apart to live the lies everyday. When B.O. can start doing the same instead of having people cover for him. making up stories as plausible excuses, his credibility may actually go up. Even now, people are not talking about him meeting his uncle but talking about lying about such trivial FACT.

    December 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. onepercenter

    That's just the point. Nobody cares if he lived with his uncle. But why did he feel it necessary to cover it up? Just another in a long line of cover-ups and lies. It's what this administration does best. It will forever be his legacy.

    December 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Mary

    It is hysterical, yet sad how Obama sheeple like Alan who claims "This shows the depths the right wing will go in trying to destroy the president. No matter what he did 30 years ago, he's done a much better job as president than George W ever did."

    He didn't LIE 30 years ago, moron, he lied his entire presidency. He is a dirt bag. And try to let go of GW. What a lame defense after 6 years. Shows what losers you are.

    December 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Cancer Patient

    And why is this a top headline on CNN.... oh that's right it's a corporate thing.

    Next time I need to remember NOT to click on useless stories like this, especially when they are headlined as a main newsworthy event.

    Talk about a loss of self respect for CNN.

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

    Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. Deborah

    So who fabricated the lie? Why is this guy so uninformed? No one in this administration will own up to anything. I am so ready for them to be gone.

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

    "Why does anyone care, if Obama lived with an uncle 30 years ago? This shows the depths the right wing will go in trying to destroy the president. No matter what he did 30 years ago, he's done a much better job as president than George W ever did."

    Why should anyone have cared about Mitt Romney's taxes either? Didn't the left demanded that he release his tax returns many more times than the law demanded? This shows the depths the left wing went to destroy the presidential candidate.

    Therefore, the moral of the story is: the left and the right wings are the same. Don't complain!

    December 6, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. 2013

    Why now? Why did the media wait until now to report this story?

    I don't believe this information wasn't available or known to many in the press until this week. Someone decided to publish it now because they are ticked off at the president.

    Is it because of the presidents stance on foreign policy with Iran? Did Netanyahoo have his people leak the information to the press? You have to wonder because the timing is very strange.

    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. Dan

    He "didn't know" that he lived with his uncle, so leave him alone!

    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. Add another lie to the list

    does it ever end? I mean, honestly, isn't the president supposed to be someone we look up to? all this man does is lie.

    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. jnpa

    Who cares!

    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  21. Kyle

    Ha-ha. They had to shut down the Mandela stories because he is a known terrorist and Jewel of the media.


    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  22. Eagle0831

    Obama and Democrats "clarify" and "evolve". Of course Republicans and political opponents of The One are liars, flip flopper and hypocrites! Priceless!

    December 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Deborah

    His uncle wasan illegal you dimwitted sheeple.

    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  24. M.M

    "Caucasian Republican Presidents have been lying since the Civil War..." Are you including Abraham Lincoln in that group?

    Nobody cares if Pres Obama once stayed with his Uncle. However people do wonder what the lie was all about.

    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  25. Just Saying

    Republicans are so upset over the strong jobs report and improving economy and health care system that they have to try to attack something Obama did 30 years ago.


    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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