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. SeeThruIt2

    The White House Spokesman just makes this stuff up as he goes without checking any facts.

    December 6, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  2. socali

    Guys, hes probably a Muslim. At this point I wouldn't put it past this president. Not that there is anything wrong with being a muslim its just I don't like when I get lied to.

    December 6, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  3. zapman44

    his reputation of sergeant shultz is growing... "i see nothing... i know nothing"

    December 6, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  4. cartman

    El Presidente Pinocchio.

    December 6, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. deee510a

    Wow this is the top news story?Not the unemployment rate that has gone DOWN a whole 4-5 points since Obama has become president?If his uncle was on his white side would this be a story?Was he suppose to call ICE on his uncle in the 80s?What has the media turned into. It has been a witch hunt on this president every since he became president.SHAME

    December 6, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  6. Wayne Hammer

    One lie after another. So, let me get this straight. When asked about whether or not Obama knew his uncle, no one went to the President to ask? They just made up an answer? So, are Obama's people dishonest or incompetent? Or, did they actually ask him, and Obama decided that the best thing to do would be to lie since his uncle was an illegal? Wow, words don't describe this man.

    December 6, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  7. ToTellTheTruth

    It seems that our president lies about everything

    December 6, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  8. joe

    Just another lie... Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  9. Teresa

    Blame it on Bush....he blames everything else on him

    December 6, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  10. ToTellTheTruth

    If you like your Uncle, you get to keep your uncle

    December 6, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. Ian

    Obama....Thanks for cleaning up the GOP Economic Cesspool......Hey didn't Reagan leave the Country and WH in an Economic Cesspool, Super Size the Gov't and decided to spend Taxpayer dollars like every other GOP buffoon......YELP!!!!

    December 6, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. PVW

    Obviously there is a major cover-up going on here. Someone needs to ask Snowden about this.

    December 6, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Jim

    So nobody talked to him about it, but it was in the news which he he had no idea these things were being said? Which is it, does he get all his information about his administrations big decisions from news outlets or does he not?

    I am so confused.

    December 6, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Tiedofitall

    You all should feel ashamed by most of these comments. Bush/Cheney lied about a whole lot worse things and you all just stood by and said nuttin'. Why? 'cause you're all into Faux News and the (wrong) Right. Get a life and look at reality for once. Check your facts, not Faux Fiction for jerks.

    December 6, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. Unle Omar Obama

    No, he didn't live with me. Yes, he did, no, he didn't. Yet another in the stream of les coming from this administration. I wonder what it's like to be accountable for nothing?

    December 6, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. RomneyWho

    Hey Mr. President, your fly is open . . . I did not know that! YOU LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

    December 6, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  17. Chris M.

    Breaking news. Obama met his uncle and possibly protected a family member. And he didn't lie again. He lied. See past tense lol.

    December 6, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  18. Jason

    Caught in another lie.... nobody spoke to the president, really?

    I guess he lived with him, but he didn't inhale while he was there.

    December 6, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  19. steve

    Another bald-faced lie. When will he ever tell the truth?

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  20. ObjectiveGuy

    We care about this because it was an intentional lie by the President of the United Sates. No, not on some matter of national security, but rather on a seemingly mundane personal issue. WHY does he feel compelled to habitually lie, over and over again, about matters big and small? That certainly speaks to his character, and also makes you wonder what the connection is with his uncle that he feels he needs to hide. So THAT'S why we care. Having a president who is a pathological liar is definitely unsettling.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. Polar Bear

    "WH reversal" means "Obama lie" for us normal people.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. 604MIKMAQ

    Obama has tried to keep his uncle's name out of media. Even though they barely know each other I'm sure it was a conscious decision to leave him out of his book. You can't blame him. He didn't want to be responsible for his deportation. I don't see why Obama has to respond to this at all though.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    I bet he can't remember Jeremiah Wright either.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. GubnitSPY

    The entire Conservative "brain trust" (oxyMoron) couldn't muster enough power even light a 3 watt LED for 1 minute.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. Miguel

    Obama sure does have a problem just giving a straight answer (telling the truth). He lawyers up every response just like Clinton.

    December 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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