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. Tom

    Are the repubs looking into the background of their own party leaders. Can't wait to hear the results of their investigations. By the way what have they accomplished for the American People while doing all their investigations? The party of NO continues to waste time and Americans tax dollars on which hunts. God, I wish November 2014 was tonorrow.

    December 6, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  2. Peter Clarke

    give me a break ! The GOP is nothing more than a bigoted bunch without any care for the poor and middle class, they have thwarted every attempt for any benevolence to every day Americans and catered to the rich forever. Any excuse to vilify a very decent President.

    December 6, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  3. ironwolf56

    Good thing Obama isn't a Republican President; the media might have actually been reporting on this story all along!

    December 6, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  4. Reverend Del

    (sigh) I couldn't care any less about race, or politics, or policies at this point...

    Just stop lying every opportunity you have been given to tell the truth. Seriously. If my kid lied as often as this? I would have him examined for a psychosis.

    December 6, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. Jeremy

    If this was truly a lie, and not a communication problem like the article is saying....then why the hell would they release this information now?
    It seems like they are just setting the record straight on an issue that Obama himself was never actually asked. By, "it seems" I mean there's no evidence to indicate anything other than the official story of what happened. It was a communication problem, not a lie.

    December 6, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  6. earth

    House of Republican Congress, Speaker of the House is already giving Hispanic communities enough of Hell Struggling Lives by refusing to take up the votes on the floor for legal immigration system. Obama's relatives already got them. Speaker of the House and Obama can be good friends behind the camera, only God Knows-Hispanic communities are long overdue -struggled enough for their cause and money on fight for immigration reform. When is the deadline, so Hispanic communities can think no more fights for reform????

    December 6, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  7. Rs1201

    When someone lies about something as unimportant as this, it suggests that this person is very comfortable lying and it just comes naturally to them. Lying becomes part of them. Pathetic and sad!

    December 6, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  8. badcyclist

    YES!!!! IMPEACH OBAMA!!! Because this is clearly in the high crimes and misdemeanors category. This is WAY WORSE than starting a war under false pretenses, for example. It is even worse than trying to insure poor people.

    December 6, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  9. Joe Murphy Denver Post

    It's odd that the only illegal alien he isn't pandering too is actually his uncle.

    December 6, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  10. sailor

    You people are all such flip flops no one knows what is true or not. Most is made up. And guess We don't give a toot.

    December 6, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  11. schapkj

    Has this Administration EVER spoken the truth?

    December 6, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  12. Kevin

    How much "research" of the "record' do you actually do before someone says, "hey, why not just ask Barak?". Total BS and we all know it. To those of you who say "who cares"–I do. I don't like liars, and this is another lie. How many lies do we need to hear before BO's supporters understand–YOU are being lied too. It was a national victory to elect a non-white as president. It will also be a proud moment when we elect a woman. But lets make sure we also consider the content of their character. MLK

    December 6, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  13. samikep

    So, what does it say when the President of the United States knew his family was breaking laws, however didn't do anything to uphold those laws?

    December 6, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  14. sa

    Is there nothing that will change peoples opinion of this guy? How many lies does he need to tell?

    December 6, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  15. Dinesh

    Its interesting that all the right-wingers crawl out of the woodwork to jump on this unimportant issue. They want to paint him with the same brush as the last president who's lies resulted in the deaths of 5000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. No comparison.

    December 6, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  16. Gary

    Puleeeeze,! Is this the best the republicans can dredge up these days? Really? A guy stayed with his uncle for a while? If the republicans had a position and somebody articulate enough to convey it they might be relevant again in 20 or 30 years.

    December 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. cbp

    Good grief! We cannot seem to get away from the phony issues and move on to the important ones. Someone at theWhite House THOUGHT he/she knew all about the President and answered for him. The real issue is how many people post comments that have nothing to do with the news at hand. It is time to rail against the President.

    Is this really news? For heavens sake, they should have just asked the President. The press is not doing its job because they have to walk a fine line between the political parties.

    December 6, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  18. KD

    Obama is one lie after another. His administration must have a czar of fabrication. How in the world does the people of America put up with lie after lie from this guy. Oh my mistake, misunderstandings or miscommunications.

    December 6, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  19. Jake

    It's not about whether he stayed with a relative, even an illegal immigrant who apparently drinks and drives. It's about trying to cover something up, for whatever reason. Cover up has been a theme for this administration. It's not a democratic issue, or a race issue, but an integrity issue.

    December 6, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  20. Wallaceboy

    Caught in a lie once more. Uncle is a political liability so he is off of the Christmas card list. Rev Wright is also off the list. You can bet that the union brass and main stream media hacks are all on the list. When will you stary eyed democrats come to your senses. This is a no character empty suit.

    December 6, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  21. EarthWorm

    You can keep your uncle if you want to. PERIOD!

    December 6, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  22. Publius

    How can someone vouch for another that they never meet a third person? Impossible without consulting the other. So we either have the WH Press Secretary making stuff up, or we have Obama lying once again. Liar!

    December 6, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  23. Terry

    I know he's a liar, but why lie about something as stupid as this? It must just be second nature to the man. What a disgrace.

    December 6, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  24. itwasntme904

    He lied. Not news!

    December 6, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  25. nuclear miek

    "The White House clarified..." open code talk for "The White HOuse LIED!!!"

    December 6, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
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