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. Kelli m.

    You do remember the lies that were told by the Bush admin.......the WMDs........that lie caused the death of thousands of Americans!!!! How easily we forget...........

    December 7, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  2. jod

    Why does the White House feel the need to lie about everything, no matter how insignificant? It's disturbing

    December 7, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  3. Hamlet

    To all of those that ask why is this a big deal... its a big deal because yet again he lied. Reversing his decision means he changed his story, so his other story wasn't completely accurate.

    It happened in the 1980s Obama was plenty old enough to remember who and who he did not know in his family, and he would definitely remember his Uncle he lived with in another country.

    Net-net, he lied again.

    December 7, 2013 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  4. Rock

    The GOP putting " * honesty and trustworthiness" in their attack,* like they have any,is extremely amusing....

    December 7, 2013 03:41 am at 3:41 am |

    Obama is pretty much the biggest liar to ever occupy the White House.

    You simply cannot believe a word that he says.

    If Obama's talking, he's lying.

    December 7, 2013 04:09 am at 4:09 am |
  6. Jonathon

    Such important business for the GOP and the WH to be fighting over. Who gives a crap. Improve the economy. Secure the border. Fix the tax code. Fix healthcare.

    December 7, 2013 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  7. OkBobOK

    BHO has a pattern of lying. Benghazi, ObamaCare, living with his uncle. What else is he lying about that we have not found out yet. Where is our press that is supposed to hold him accountable?

    December 7, 2013 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  8. Jennifer NY

    Why did the Harvard Law Review press report state that Obama was born in Kenya?

    December 7, 2013 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  9. TommytheT

    Does any one in the White House ever talk to the President? Why do we hear over and over again that either no one told him or no one asked him? Is he that unapproachable by his staff and advisers?

    Or are they just going about their business because he brings no value to the discussions, issues or concerns?

    December 7, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  10. sandyk

    Obama's entire life....including his a lie. Nothng but a lie. And foolish Americans swallowed his lies, hook, line and sinker.

    December 7, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  11. SRQIggy

    Yeah, like this is news to any of us. The man is a liar...his whole presidency is a lie. He has not delivered on anything he promised...anything...period.

    December 7, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  12. Guest

    unbelievable, Obama will lie about anything.

    December 7, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  13. Emma Morrow

    Obama spent most of His entire life lying to those around Him, claiming He was foreign-born possibly in Kenya, and He likely got student loans and leadership positions based on His lies.

    Obama is a poser..

    December 7, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  14. Bobby's Girl

    And no one bothered to consult the president about having ever met his brother? Tell me another. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office the day this story was concocted! Gotta believe that more than a little time was spent trying to keep ahead of this one.

    December 7, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  15. KaPueo

    I'm confused. Which lie are we supposed to believe?

    December 7, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  16. Karen S

    We cannot trust one word out of Obama's mouth. NO ONE!

    December 7, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  17. akka1234

    The only time this president tells the truth is if a lie doesn't suit. And @ mikeyD – FYI this president is not BLACK – he is mixed race – equally black and white. No one cares about the color of his skin. We do however, care about his honesty...

    December 7, 2013 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  18. seanster5977

    In the real world it is not a flip flop, or a change in the story. We would call any other person a bold faced liar. But after the last five years you would have to live under a rock to not consider everything Obama says a potential lie.

    December 7, 2013 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  19. Patrio

    He violates immigration laws staying with an illegal and lies saying he didn't. No big deal? True as most intelligent people who didn't vote for him already knew he was a liar to begin with, myself included.

    December 7, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  20. Chris Asking Question

    So....why did President Obama lie about not having met this uncle?

    December 7, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  21. Walter Jasniewski

    Why is this a surprise? I'm not sure he's ever told the truth. Next it will come out that he never went to college. Ever wonder why Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court? She went from being the President of Harvard Law School, never being a judge, to being on the Supreme Court. That's her pay for keeping quiet.

    December 7, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  22. Charlie

    Remember the congressman who shouted out "lier" as the president spoke to congress,well as it turns out he was right he's just like a salesman you can tell when he's living because his lips are moving

    December 7, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  23. Zeke

    When is the Obama White house going to tell the truth about anything? The American people deserve better trom
    Their President.

    December 7, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  24. Philaflyers

    You can keep your insurance, oops, no you can,t I never met with my Uncle from Kenya, wait a minute yes I did. O darn it I did it again! Gee's guy's I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS!

    December 7, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  25. Family Man

    The bigger issue to me is how sad it is for him to ignore a close relative for decades! This from a man who likes to be compared to Nelson Mandela? Reconciliation.........look it up in the dictionary Mr. President.

    December 7, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
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