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. NorCalMojo

    Obama wasn't aware of it until he read it in the headlines.

    December 6, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. W

    And this matters because his uncle is black?

    December 6, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  3. Anonymous

    "Obama was never asked about it? Really? I suspect that too is a LIE just like most things this president says."

    It is very believable because nobody cares if he lived with his uncle for a few weeks over 40 years ago. The only people that care are the ones who are trying to imply a racial thing to other like minded people and now you turn this on him too. It is unreal how far people go attacking the president over things that are either false or irrelevant.

    December 6, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. GenYer

    What a shocker! Another lie from a politician..... : /

    December 6, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. Beady

    –Why is it a big deal whether the President stayed with an uncle for a few weeks? Oh I forgot, it's only a big deal for this President! Hooray for racism!!!–

    Those speaking for the president, that lied about the fact he even knew his uncle, did so because of the political cost it was going to take on president obama that he was living with an illegal alien. Realize how that would make the president look when it came to the highly debated immigration reform issues.

    The outcry is that again, more lies come out in an attempt to protect this president. Lies which have hurt millions of people in the past, with those around healthcare, evesdropping, etc.

    December 6, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  6. Same Issues Different Party

    Ardie... the symantics of oppression of people has gone on for longer than 400 years. However, this country... the one we live in today has not existed for 400 years. Culturally, we do have a fasination with the President of the United States because that person is supposed to embody the spirit of our nation, to give people hope for the future and to lead others ... The past presidents we have had have not done a good job of this, nor has the one presently... between one being impeached for his indiscretions as Command and Chief, to the failed policies of Bush overseas, to the repeated lies of Obama... if there is something I've missed in the context of his lies, please feel free to enlighten us.

    Or as the Great Clinton once said, it depends on the defintion of "insert your word of choice" but I believe his was simply "is"

    December 6, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. BIll

    OMG! The president lied, like the president before him, and the president before him, and the president before him, and the president before him so forth and so on.

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. pokey5735

    Has this guy ever been familiar with telling the truth? Does anyone believe a word coming from his slick tongue anymore? He is a pathological liar and that is a mental disorder. When will people stop drinking the Kool-aid?

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. davecu

    So, he lies again!

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. Ben

    Why is this out and out lie not given the same press and coverage as the death of a second tier star?

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. DirtyHeat

    Why is it that whenever something bad happens or a statement from the WH get proved to be false is the answer ALWAYS Obama did not know about it, or was never informed or never asked about it?

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. bails

    There is something seriously wrong with this man. what a crock!

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. dave

    Who cares??? What difference does it make??? NONE

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Stephen Rothschild

    Who cares whether they asked him. Certainly he heard the report that they had NEVER MET and did not correct the error. He is the LIAR IN CHIEF.

    December 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Joi Gibson

    Am I missing something? When it first arose, the White House folks said the President did not live with his uncle without ever having asked the President. Now, when asked, the President confirmed what his uncle said. I can see why the White House may have jumped off with the wrong answer given all the crap that was and still is being thrown at the President about being born in Kenya – maybe they were too quick to jump, but I fail see why this is important. I think it is just another CNN -Faux news pile-on story. Personally, I could care less. I voted for him twice, would do so again. Sometimes I am disappointed, but all in all, he is still my man and has my full support.

    December 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Bob R

    so they made a statement to the public, about the personal life of the president of the united states, and didnt think to ask him? yeah i beleive that, sure.
    look im not a "birther" and have never even actually met someone who is, but i am really tired of all the lies from this guy, and his whole crew. he makes statements that he knows to be false/beyond his control. and then when they are revealed, its supposed to not be a huge deal? jay carney has probably the most undesirable job in the world, and i would feel bad for him except that he has continued to do it for 5 years. youd think he would have gotten fed up by now, unless he thinks its okay to lie to the people, the people that put his boss in office.
    one of the major reasons obama got elected in the first place, despite his inexperience, is the fact that everyone thought he was a good guy, and very trustworthy. he was supposed to replace the stereotypical washington politician. now that he has been revealed to have been cast from the same mold as every person in congress, if not worse, what does he have to stand on? a failing health insurance reform? a "we will not compromise" policy? if he was to run for office now, he would be unelectable. now instead of being a good guy who will need to learn a little bit, but the "hope and change" everyone was looking for in a politician, he is just the inexperienced policitian who decided to skip the years necessary to hone himself into a good politician.

    December 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Virginia

    If he were white and a Republican would these same comments be made? I seriously doubt it.

    December 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. rtkmd

    I have to admit that I only read this article to see what silly comments would be made. Setting aside my long-held observation that the Press Secretary's job description traditionally includes obfuscation, I was happy to see that the White House staff had resisted wasting the President's time and attention with a dopey question about whether he had stayed with his uncle before law school. I was, however, disappointed they they felt they had to scour his writings and quiz historians to look for the answer. Let's get on with the task of solving problems worthy of our federal government.

    December 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. John kay

    Let's not ignore the part that his uncle has lived here illegally.. For how long? Not paying taxes and living here? Nice

    December 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    While the right wing screams and yells "Benghazi, Omar, NSA, AP, Impeachment" the Republican House is only working eight days in the month of December, and has yet to take up any floor debates on several key pieces of legislation. Most importantly, the Farm Bill is set to expire, which would cause the price of milk to double, and other similar issues that will ripple through the economy, most likely causing it to stal and fall into a tail spin.

    A Milk Shutdown would be an economic disaster. It would affect almost the entire food industry: from farmers to moms to restaurants and to any food business that consumes milk. And that's just the damage milk's price could cause.

    December 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Darwin

    Maybe some of these foolish posters would rather have GW BUSH back so we can have another 4000 Americans die for nothing in IRAQ while tossing ONE TRILLION DOLLARS down the IRAQ TOILET.

    December 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Ben

    He knew the answer the White House had been giving, and it was the answer he preferred. You can't seriously think a control freak egotist like Obama doesn't know what his own people are saying about him! Yes, he knew they said he'd never met his uncle, and like much of his past, Obama prefers to let people draw their own conclusions (which, from the left, are going to be rosy) than actually tell anyone anything.

    That's why we still don't know what his grades were in college, even though Bush's and Romney's were posted in newspapers by reporters long ago. That's why his "biography" is full of lies and amalgamated situations rather than the truth....And yes, he admits this himself.

    The left doesn't want to know any truth about Obama, they fear the truth more than anything, because it will put a lie to the last five years, and they would have to admit all the people they claimed were racist were actually just being truthful, not racist.

    December 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. julnor

    Does anyone believe anything that comes out of the WH anymore?

    December 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Birchview

    Even if you are a huge Obama supporter, it's getting hard to take anything he says at full face value. The GOP doesn't need to keep piling on the negative rhetoric,Obama seems to be better at undoing himself than anyone.

    People who pathologically have to look right in any conversation or act will eventually find themselves in a hole to deep to escape. Obama is very close if not in that hole...

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. W

    He stayed with his uncle for 3 weeks.

    Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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