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 a birther...but

    kinda makes you wonder about him telling the truth about his birth certificate... it did take a while to produce.

    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. shorething

    Obama has been caught in lie after lie after lie, why do we put up with this garbage?

    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  3. Zac

    Their strategy of covering up scandals with scandals is interesting.

    December 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. dmwinsd

    So what?

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

    Hey Alan think about what you are saying. Obama chose his running mate. Two of kind.

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |

    Obama did live with uncle................

    Who the hell cares and why?

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  7. Bill

    More LIES from the Liar n Cheif

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. HUH?

    We care because it shows that the emperor with no clothes has no moral compass and is trying to hide something. In its self your right. Who cares? So, why did he lie about it?

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. I Can Read

    Hyper-partisans are amazing – I am a non-hyper-partisan Democrat and do not think Obama is honest. Here is why if the robots could take a moment to read!
    His administration argued to increase the usage of warrant-less GPS tracking of US Citizens before the Supreme Court. His economic Recover has mostly (if not completely) benefited the investors on wall street. My wages have declined in the past few years. He made a deal with PHARMA to not import cheaper drugs (contrary to his stance as Senator) to garner support for ACA. He seems to now embrace NSA spying. My health premiums have rose 50% in over past two years as opposed to his promise that they would decrease. Hey can with a snap of a finger push out the employer mandate, but claims he is unable to make changes on other laws in such a unilateral method. Most transparent and open government ever....please......I don't know of any initiatives that Obama has had crafted and debated in the open. I can list more if it really matters.....but it would any ardent Obama supporter really be swayed with said facts?

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. davecu

    Still another lie.
    Rather than correct an inaccuracy, 'The Liar in Chief' chooses to say nothing for 2 years.
    This could explain why his school transcripts are missing.
    How many other things has he lied to the congress and country about?

    December 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. MajorPayne

    Every President, Senator, Congressman all lie. It's a requirement to get into politics and to advance their cause. It's called the Washington two-step. Some dance better than others.

    December 6, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. pourmonamiJC

    Seriously? Leave the man alone for God's sake. Gee!

    December 6, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. John

    So both his aunt and his uncle were living in the US as illegal aliens, the latter with forged social security card and driver's license?

    December 6, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  14. sfe

    What's embarrassing about this is the statement "no one asked the President". Isn't that where one (with any reasonable intelligence) would start to quest for such info? Considering the toxic political environment in Washington DC you'd want to ensure facts and answers are triple checked before releasing info publically.

    December 6, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  15. Steven Brooks


    He has committed no impeachable offenses.

    Please, don't resort to hyperbole and/or lies to attempt to justify your ignorant opinion.

    December 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. oddjob3422

    Another Tour de France of backpedaling...

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

    Ok? So what? Now watch what all the fad following Obama haters are gonna say...I swear every president we have, no matter what, people are going to start getting sick of them and you know why? Because most Americans live in a now now now society where they want everything to happen now or overnight and when it doesn't guess what happens? OMG WHAT A LIAR WORST PRESIDENT WE EVAR HAAAAAAAAAAD!!! I never seen such a fickle bunch of civilians in my life than those in America...

    December 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  18. Ed

    What I don't get is why anyone is speaking on behalf of the president without asking him about topics that relate to his personal life. What bothers me more is that it seems the truth changes depending on his mood.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. David

    It's weird though. Obama's got family that needs help but he's never lifted a finger for any of them.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. MikeinNM

    PROOF that no-drama Obama ever cries "Uncle!"
    Of course if anyone ever ASKED him, he would've told them. Pin this one on his go-fers, not Obama.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  21. Enough

    Who would of thought that he maybe less then truthful!

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. Msswiss

    Why do people bother asking why does this matter? If you can't see why this matters your blind.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. realist58

    This has nothing to do about whether he stayed with his uncle. It has everything to do with the fact that he LYED again.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  24. David

    funny how the white right equates an error by the white house staff as a lie by Obama. Anything they can blame on our black president they will.

    December 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. CHHIII

    If you like your illegal alien uncle you can keep him.

    December 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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