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. bryan

    remember when we had a free press that would have actually investigated if the white house claimed the president never met his uncle? way back in the olden times prior to 2008 the press used to check things out

    December 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. John

    While this certainly isn't the first administration to tell lies, anymore it feels like this administration doesn't tell the truth about anything. What kind of example is this for America's kids?

    December 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. jalapenochomper

    Who cares? That is the POINT! It was not even important and yet, at best, giving and incredible benefit of the doubt, Obama did not correct the record. That is the character of the man leading the most powerful country in the world. Amazing the trust of those that still support Obama. Have you no understanding the carnage big governments always bring?

    Some day the government will be telling you to be grateful that there is no food to eat. Be grateful you do not know where your children are – after all we let them live for this long.

    Read the Declaration of Independence. Your country was started with a statement that no government can take away your rights and one that does deserves to be unseated. Stop making excuses for the current president just because the the person in office 10 years ago had too much trust in his advisors (bad – but different from a lie and even if it was a lie how does that justify lying to the people now). President Obama is subject to the people, not the other way around.

    December 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. Cheryl

    That makes two relatives that are in this country illegally. How many more does he have? No wonder he doesn't want any illegals deported, unless of course they commit murder.

    December 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. littlepeaks

    Now the Democrats are going to try to put Hillary up for President, as if she's any more truthful.

    December 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  6. adventuresinelfland

    Why are people making a deal of this?

    OK. He lived with the guy for a while. But he did not know this fact until he saw it on the evening news just like the rest of us.

    December 6, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. Jimbo Jones

    Yet another lie. Shocker!

    December 6, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. Jeff

    And we are supposed to be surprised by this cover up being exposed why ???

    December 6, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. Ray

    What are the republicans trying to hide.

    December 6, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  10. barbara

    How could you forget something like that?

    December 6, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Get Over It

    Can we focus on real issues??? Who cares where his family is from or where they are now....let's focus on all the problems in America and there are PLENTY to go around! #OverIt

    December 6, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. thenormalone

    Ask the Uncle if he recalls where Obama was born.

    December 6, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Hanrahan

    "What difference at this point does it make?" Oh wait, they've already used that line to cover up another disgusting liberal mess.

    December 6, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  14. Jack

    Outlaw government in the history of this nation.

    December 6, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. John

    For the president not to remember that he stayed with his Uncle is ludicrous. I think he knew he was illegal and choose not to tell the truth to protect himself. The president still hasn't learned that secrets have a tendency to get out and he is caught telling the American public a bold face lie.
    How convenient that his uncle is granted permission to stay. Other illegal won't be so fortunate if caught living here illegally for decades.

    December 6, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Hanrahan

    The current "leaders" of our country make me ashamed to be an American. Our forefathers would be disgusted.

    December 6, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. powerfail

    Apparently, he can't tell the truth even in trivial matters. He is a very poor leader indeed.

    December 6, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. David

    I find it totally unbelievable that the White House staff would not inquire of the president about and uncle with an immigration and seemingly an alcohol problem. The fact they checked the president book as a reference and found no mention of him, only proves how incompetent they are, or they are chronic liars.

    December 6, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  19. glenview0818

    Why would the white house release the statement that they had never met without asking the president, that just does not make sense? I have to say, what else are they answering for the president without asking directly?

    December 6, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. glenview0818

    To elaborate further, it is one thing to say "we don't know anything about this", but it is entirely another to say "they had never met".

    December 6, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  21. jj

    We must remember that "administration" is different from "The President." The staff member(s) who offered the information DID NOT CHECK WITH THE PRESIDENT and this article states that.

    December 6, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  22. ArizonaYankee

    Obama's whole being is a lie. This man should have been impeached in 2008, and ALL of the communist democrats voted out....We are getting what the libtards want.....

    December 6, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  23. Ed

    Very strange. The explanation is worse than the original lie.

    December 6, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  24. HadEnough

    They didn't talk to the President about his uncle and there was "no record" of the two ever meeting??? Ok - whether or not he knew or lived with his uncle may not be a big deal, but does the White House think the American people are stupid? I mean really. Even if we were to believe they never asked Obama about him, clearly this was done purposely so that they could later explain away their position on a technicality. Honestly, these politicians should be ashamed of themselves.

    December 6, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  25. LLb

    Why wasn't this uncle included in Reagan's amnesty if he wee her as long as this article claims? And this uncle is among many in BO's life who helped him and he "lost touch" with. Glad I wasn't his friend, mentor, uncle, mother or gradnparents, grass roots organizers (who worked tirlessly to get Obama elected only to be disappointed). O used so many people to his advantage only to move on leaving them in his dust.

    December 6, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
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