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. Adam

    So what?

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

    LOL, "WH reversal" LOL. Just say it. Obama didn't tell the truth again....

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Besides the fact that he lied AGAIN, what about the fact that this Uncle of his defiantly disobeyed an order to leave the Country TWICE and just stayed. Not only that, what's up with our immigration policies, or lack thereof? How is it that they told this guy he had to leave twice, and over 50 years he lived here illegally and no one did anything to get him out of the Country. Just more incompetence on our Governments part, but what else is new. Tells me even if they did pass more B.S. legislation on immigration that they are incapable and completely incompetent in enforcing it. This guy needs to be IMPEACHED immediately, except for the fact there would be race wars as the race card would be played and they would claim we impeached him only because he is black. They would never understand that his criminal acts caused the impeachment.

    December 6, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  4. TJ

    Spin control after the Master Manipulator Obama gets caught in another lie

    December 6, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |

    Obamas whitehouse is kinda shady...

    Ready for Hillary 2016

    December 6, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. Momo

    Every poster on this site has used illegal either knowingly or not. Everytime you get your lawn done or a house built or eat at a restaurant or have other manual work done, illegal workers are inevitably involved. This is a non-story. The real story is Obama doesn't know what he is doing.

    December 6, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Hadenuffyet

    Never run for president unless you want to live under a microscope

    December 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. A True Conservative

    @David – "the white right" – That has gotten old too. Will the left EVER get a clue? Will the ever stop trying to cover for this guy? Perhaps they are simply incapable of seeing the truth.....

    December 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. Liza

    And this is relevant because???

    December 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. iceload9

    "was granted permission Tuesday by a federal immigration judge to stay in the United States, where he has lived illegally for the past five decade" It's good to be connected.

    December 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. TheBob

    This spells the end of Western civilization as we know it.

    December 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. pappy

    Who cares. Has absolutely nothing to do with the presidents job now. This is not going to affect anything in your daily life so drop it. ....and I do not belong to any stupid political party. I have a brain.

    December 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Mark Yelka

    Really now, such a fuss! Any strong comments either pro or con indicate unreasonable bias.

    December 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Ricksta

    That's because the American voters are perfect and have never told a lie.

    December 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. john.deatherage

    Don't you just hate it with the "transparent" president get caught in lie! I'm now onboard with hope for a change 2016.

    December 6, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. fj

    oh my god i just found out obama lied about something else. he watched "top gun" in 1987 and not 1986 as he originally said. we need to impeach this guy. way too many lies. let's put another bush in the white house. hopefully the next one won't start any wars or recessions like the last one.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. KeninTexas

    They told a lie just out of habit since they do it so often. The truth is something they are not used to.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. Anonobus

    The power of propaganda. After everything questionable that's happened in the last 10 to 20 years, we have people caring about this. Time to listen to Tom Petty.
    His original answer should have been "none of your business – keep the questions relevant".
    Too funny.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. I Can Read

    I really like the childish excuse 'they all lie'. But I guess it is at least an admission that Obama is the same as all other politicians.....just another lying, crooked politician based on this justification.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. gus

    NOTHING TO SEE HERE, (dozens of Liberal commenters say so, besides EVERYONE does it ,just ask LZ Granderson) just ANOTHER 'little lie' that this Half Black politician from Chicago needed to get himself elected / re-elected.


    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. Anon

    I can't believe I am witnessing fellow Democrats compare the size of our presidents lies to the size of another president's lies: And this former president is probably a president they didn't vote for or don't like. A liar is a liar, regardless the size of the lie or the color of their tie. This is the person the whole nation should be able to look up to. He has continuously lied to us since I voted for him: A mistake I have seem to have made twice. Get real guys.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. C. Clark

    sounds like the staff thought they could cute their way through the issue by making sure their was no mention in Obama's book and then saying publicly "there was no record of the two ever meeting" and studiously not tainting Obama by doing the obvious thing and asking him if he had ever met his uncle. But all of that aside, the thing that strikes me the most is that Obama now sounds proud of having no contact with his uncle who had let him stay at his place for three weeks in Boston because Obama needed a place to stay before starting at Harvard. Wow. I would respect him more if he tried to help his uncle out a little bit.

    December 6, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. mike

    Oh Bull! He didn't know what the white house release said. That's pure crap.

    December 6, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  24. Zack

    Hey "Just Saying" the only reason the job report is "so strong" is because for every full-time job cut there is two part time jobs opened so these companies can save money. Yeah that's exactly what I want is two 30-hour a week jobs instead of one 40-hour a week job. Go Obama. And as far as the "growing economy", that's a complete joke. How can you call the economy improving when SOOOOOOOOO many people are on food stamps, welfare, and any other government assistance as possible. Such a great economy. The only thing going up at this point in time is the debt ceiling.

    December 6, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Funny how we're reducing this to a whites vs blacks, when it is a lying president vs the people who are owed the truth. Obama has lied about everything. I want my votes back that i gave him the last two elections.

    December 6, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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