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. B Herndon

    Why does anyone care, if Obama lived with an uncle 30 years ago? This shows the depths the White House will go in trying to protect the president. They just make up the lie because there might be a controversy.
    And they wonder why the president is called a liar and isn't trusted.

    December 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. BD70

    Why is this an issue? I doubt I would remember who I stayed with that many years ago.

    December 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  3. CNN doing it's job

    Funny how liberals now paint CNN as Fox (Faux) news because of the so called anti-Obama stories. Folks, CNN is just reporting what the White House admitted. That they LIED! If you want CNN to cover that lie up or not report it, then obviously you're the one with the problem.

    December 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  4. josh

    Why do some folks question this?

    December 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. David Westley Smith

    You haters need to go somewhere and sit down. Even better, disappear forever! How in the heck can you blame President Obama for this misinformation when the White House has said more than once President Obama was not even asked about this. You haters are racists! Want to know how I know you are? Because you spewed your mean-spirited hate towards president Obama BEFORE he became president, while he campaigning for president. The closer you saw that he was winning the race, the more hate you threw at him. You haters make me sick!!

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

    No one seems to care that Obama lived with his Uncle years ago except Obama and the White House. If they didn't think it was important why did they lie again about something They are also defending the President by saying no one asked him about his Uncle. Shouldn't the POTUS be involved in statements made by his WH about his life and you know that he is always informed. He is the most innocent person in the whole world because he never knows what is happening. That in itself is scary because I feel my President should know what is happening or being said within his own administration.

    December 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Daily Llama

    Liberals ignore credibility of candidates, those alread elected – everyone at every single level! – until it involves conservatives. Ya gotta love the sheer, unadulterated insanity of a party that derides a dummy like Dan Quayle and ditzy Sarah Palin ..... but seems to absolutely worship a total zero like Joe Biden. This putz couldn't count his nads three times and come up with the same answer twice! The most bizarre antics and gaffes of Quayle & Palin barely make 1/50th of a Biden. Joe "Alfred E." Biden: What – me Vice President! (WORRY!!!!!!!)

    December 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. Frank Nash

    I'd love to see the "Liar in Chiefs" college records he has refused to release. Who wants to bet he claims to be from Kenya to get financial aid? (I'm not saying he's FROM Kenya, I'm saying he's a LIAR and will lie about anything to get what he wants!) Time to impeach this guy!

    December 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. lucy'smom

    It is funny to hear liberal outrage over the lack of respect given to Pres. Obama, yet they had no problem spewing hatred, contempt, and no respect to Pres. Bush.

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

    another lie and why is this Chicago city street slciker and nothing more along w/his gal pal, Ms. Hillary Not locked up by House arrest for blatant lie, breach of faith, treason at the Benghazi Massacre?

    December 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. Steve

    Who cares? Really? Man they must be really hurting for news.

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. bob_lawbla

    Lying Like a Rug.

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. Ole Virginnie

    Thirty years he stayed with his uncle for a brief time but said he didnt. This is earth shattering news.

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. hello

    It's no longer called "being wrong" or "lying", it's now called "a clarification" whenever they get caught. Brilliant.

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Phattee

    Who cares!

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. Mitch

    It's been a slow news week. CNN has a business to run.

    December 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    And why is this news? Talk about something that matters please.

    December 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Bwana Salama

    We SHOULD BE USED to this guy lying his way through everything he's done. He LIED about it because as a politician it was not kosher to have ILLEGAL ALIENS as relatives or employees. He LIED because it would have hurt his chances of running for office. AND he probably LIED because he HAD TO in order to receive government help as a resident of Massachusetts in order to get financial AID for Harvard. The guy LIED because it was convenient. He's not interested in the POOR people, his uncle helped him but he can't return the favor, and look at how his half brother lives in Kenya, on less than a buck a day. It's his family but he doesn't really give a damn about the poor, including his relatives. He's a fake and a LIAR. He ONLY helps the poor when it's NOT HIS MONEY but OURS, otherwise he doesn't give a damn about it.

    December 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. mark ducharme

    It might just be a white house staff error and not a direct lie by Mr Obama, but you know he had heard the error and did NOT right the statement. That is still a LIE, people.

    December 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. MP

    Say what you want, but this is a blunder by the president. Why would your administration ever make that statement to begin with if they didn't know the truth? Sounds like a simple lie to me. For something so insignificant especially, why would they lie about it? Considering the other questionable individuals Obama was associated with in the past, why would this uncle make a difference?

    December 6, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Ben

    A lie on top of a lie on top of a lie.

    December 6, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. karenascofield

    Other than the fact that the guy stayed illegally in the country for decades, and the fact that staff sometimes speaks without asking Obama for verification on Obama's personal history, this is not news.

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Biased 1

    LOL, "WH reversal" LOL. Just say it. Obama lied again....

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. A True Conservative

    He didn't know a thing about this until he saw it on the evening news......nobody told him......that excuse is getting old......

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  25. BFOTO

    Does anyone EVER ask the President about anything?! It's now a sad, but true, punchline.

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
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