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. Roger Rabbit

    Obama. Once a liar, always a liar.

    December 6, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  2. roccotaco

    I remember when Richard Nixon lied about a stupid break in of a democratic political office and the media ran him out of office. Now, we have heard hundreds of lies from this adm. and NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN still carries his water. Man are we messed up as a nation.

    December 6, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  3. tommeister

    This "presentdent" never is asked anything or knows anything, except of course when it is one of the few times something good has happened in 5 years and then he "was all over it".

    Facts are that his Uncle was here illegally and got caught crashing his car DRUNK and Obysmal and his crew LIED about Obysmal knowing him – Period.

    Liberals are frauds liars and cowards – period.

    December 6, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. MC

    Staying with a relative is not uncommon or strange. This shows strong family bond.

    What is strange is why first deny and then accept with reluctance? This has become a pattern with this president.

    I kind of surprised how ungrateful this president is towards his uncle – first he stays at his place for months and then never bothered to connect with him for almost 2 decades? or is he again trying to be politically correct by defending that he had no connection with illegals??

    My opinion – he is just another politician who is more bothered about creating a great legacy through a masked personality.

    December 6, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  5. McBob79

    Just more spin and misdirection from the most secretive administration since Nixon.

    December 6, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  6. AR

    I trust Obama more than the lying GOP.

    December 6, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  7. matt

    This admin is nothing but lie upon whole life have never seen anything like this..time to impeach!

    December 6, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. iantagan

    What really is unfortunate is that John McCain and Romney are such morons, that it was beneath them to delve into this. If they two had good political sense, they should not only have exposed these relatives in the US, but also those in Kenya many of whom are devout muslim fundametalists.

    December 6, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. abnguy

    We all know the president lies, this isn't news anymore. Write an article when he manages to tell the truth then we'll be surprised.

    December 6, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  10. annieL

    That's right. The President of the United States should have held a press conference immediately after his first election and announced, "I have an uncle who has lived in the country illegally for 50 years." Or maybe included that confession in his State of the Union address. Then would Republicans have hailed him as a man of great character who always tells the truth?

    December 6, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. Gloria

    This is totally ridiculous! So now some in the GOP are questioning our president's trustworthiness just because he supposedly didn't reveal that he lived with his uncle for about 3 weeks before starting law school????? Give me a break!!!!! President Obama certainly wasn't in politics then, and even so, was he obligated to tell about every move he's made in the past? Also, what does his uncle's immigration status issues and a 2011 drunk driving charge have to do with the president? As an American, I am really sick of all this nonsense!

    December 6, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. Bribarian

    So many lies about obama, why is he still in office? Man liberals are dumb.....

    December 6, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. alfonds

    Two things MikyD: (1) The president did not tell the truth. (2) According to Morgan Freedman,Obama is not black, he is bi-racial.

    December 6, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  14. deon

    If you like your uncle, you can keep your uncle. If you don't you can pretend you never met him.

    December 6, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  15. Jane

    It really isn't a big deal at all that he lived with his uncle. And, it is possible he didn't know (at the time) that his uncle was here illegally. But you are honestly telling me that as the President when this came up in 2011 his "handlers" didn't just go to him and ask, and consulted books instead. Moreover, he didn't hear anything about it while reading the news/watching tv so he could be the transparent president he promised to be and correct it right then and there? How is anyone supposed to believe one word this guy says when everything comes back as false and he is constantly "clarifying" his previous statements. Pathetic.

    December 6, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  16. Bill Ng

    Enough is Enough.. Time for IMPEACHMENT

    December 6, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  17. Roberto

    It's all about credibility. And Obama has none.

    December 6, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  18. Jane

    I love how people keep saying 'Well Bush lied', 'Bush killed people'. Bush isn't president anymore! Are you going to blame Bush for the next 50 years for everything? You got to moan and groan and tear him apart his entire 8 years of presidency, let it go. Obama is a big boy and chose to run for Presidents saying 'The buck stops here' placing responsibility of wrongdoing during his administration squarely on his shoulders. He is not the 'bullied black boy' that is picked on by racists. He is a man (black and white) that sucks at his job and lies to get his way. Stating that he is the most disrespected president in history is a joke. Up until after his reelection, the media loved him like he was Jesus himself. Now that he can't be run again (thank goodness) he is letting his true colors show and people are finally seeing him for the inexperienced disaster he really is.

    December 6, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  19. Carl

    He did live with his uncle, but didn't know about it until he read about it in the newspapers like we all did.

    December 6, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  20. STeve smith

    IT seems the right wing had no problem with Bush lying about WMD in Iraq, leading to who knows how many deaths and destroyed lives. But the White Staff misspeaks about an obscure relative and suddenly there is a credibility issue. Why can't right wingers just man-up and admit they apply a double standard due to their racism.

    December 6, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  21. njudgemental

    If Trump offers the Uncle a million to tell the truth I bet all sorts of obama skeletons will jump out of the closet. The Uncle is not a part of the obama political machine, since he told the truth about his nephews stay with him. Alternatively the rich dems will be paying the uncle to keep quiet. Either way, the uncle is the big winner, becoming a new citizen and getting paid off for what he knows or doesn’t tell.

    December 6, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  22. Dan

    I never thought I'd live in a nation where the President deliberately and intentionally lies. We're inferior to the nation we used to be.

    December 6, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  23. Jack Baxter

    ANOTHER LIE? Why? You know good and well he remembered living with his uncle!!! Why lie about it at all? I made the huge mistake of voting this guy into office, but if he's going to like about something like this he would lie about anything, whether trivial or serious. People are getting tired of being lied to by this president- republicans and democrats alike!!!

    December 6, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  24. tarura

    What else about Obama in 1980 we should learn next?
    What passport did he used for traveling to Pakistan, perhaps?

    December 6, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  25. Rossbach

    Surely, the White House would not tell a lie to the American public?

    December 6, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
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