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. Bill In STL

    This is news for one reason only.. for all those things that he remembers when he was young, and he can't remember this??? The question is not why is this news ... It should be can you trust anything this man says..

    Keep your policy, don't

    Did not live in Kenya ... Did...

    Are those really his wife and children (exaggeration for the illustration)

    December 6, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  2. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Breaking news: Obama met his uncle. Impeachment starts Monday.

    December 7, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  3. nomad2003

    Just shows another lie for our President. I never met him to oh yea, I stayed with him.

    December 7, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. concernedGrndma

    Hi, Uncle Omar. We are glad to make your acquaintance.

    December 7, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Skeptic

    Impeach him! Impeach him, I say!

    What's that? Nobody cares? Oh, well. Never mind.

    December 7, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  6. Bill Wilson

    He's ahead of Clinton now.

    December 7, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  7. Susan

    What a liar! I wish somebody in the press would ask Omar if he was in the room (in Kenya) when his nephew was born.....

    December 7, 2013 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  8. youcantfoolme

    They tried to cover up the fact that dear old uncle was here illegally,hence the denial. And isn't his Aunt also here illegally and living the good life on the taxpayers dime. Lord only knows how many more of his relatives ar here illegally that we don't know about. The show is over and this lying embarrassment needs to go.So far what we know of his Kenyan roots is that his family is poor,black law breaking trash. And it's time to take the garbage out.

    December 7, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  9. eb

    The good liars know that to get caught in one that is meaningless such as this is devastating to your credibility.

    December 7, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  10. Doug

    Why do we really care about this .... He can lie all he wants about this, what concerns me are the lies that affect my life..

    December 7, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  11. just me

    hmmmmmmm....kinda strange how a deep background check didn't bring this to light.i have applied for jobs in the past and even a small company wants to know which way the damm door faced at the hospital when i was born......lies lies lies!!!!

    December 7, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  12. CanadaBob

    Have to assume the uncle didn't commit any crimes in the last 50 years and the President isn't his uncle's keeper. However, I believe most of the bloggers have missed the bigger picture. The press secretary never checked the facts. I would assume from now on the follow up question from the press would be, "Have you confirmed your answer with the President"

    December 7, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  13. cgs

    Is anyone even surprised anymore when president BO lies?

    December 7, 2013 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  14. Spencer

    But *why do his people have the impulse to LIE about these things all the time?* Any trouble, don't even waffle, just lie.

    December 7, 2013 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  15. Liza


    December 7, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  16. Jonathan

    What in the world is the big deal about this? These stupid conservatives are always reaching for something. Bush was the biggest liar of them all.

    December 7, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  17. Grumpy

    "Honesty is the best policy. If I lose my honor, I lose myself."

    December 7, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  18. BigDoggie

    How long until we get the real story on his birth, upbringing, and whether he designated foreign student on his college apps?? Seems the public may be getting ready for this finally but not sure the news folks are going to turn on him enough to report on this yet. The volume of truth that comes from the mouths of Obama, Axelrod, Jarrett, and Emanuel is too small to be measured.

    December 7, 2013 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  19. Greg C.

    The President not truthful? Go figure....

    December 7, 2013 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  20. Ben

    Why is it important?! How about because his uncle has been living in the US ILLEGALLY FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS?!!! Yes, that is very important. Especially at a time when immigration reform is supposed to be at the top of the agenda!

    December 7, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  21. RobS

    It isn't important whether he lived with his uncle or not. What IS important is that Obama lies as a reflex. Important or not, he lies about everything.

    December 7, 2013 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  22. JT

    I think we're at the point, where if the administration told the truth it would be news.

    December 7, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  23. Mit

    Something bad about Obama... we'd better rationalize and call it normal

    December 7, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  24. Joy

    How many lies does Obama have to tell before you guys wake the hell up.

    December 7, 2013 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  25. Anonymous

    At first, I thought Obama wanted to give illegals amnesty because he was trying to get the Hispanic vote. Now, I understand that he wants to give amnesty to illegals because his relatives are here illegally. How can you be President when you have lived with relatives that you know are breaking US law?

    December 7, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
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