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. Cary Grant

    Yet another lie from the liar in chief.

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Mike

    having the conviction to say this doesn't sound strange is confirmation of homeristic bias. This was made into a huge deal (at the time). If this was untrue, the president was not asked directly, and the WH staff made this public proclomation, don't you think Obama would have corrected everyone? It's not like these statements were made behind closed doors. Eithe he heard it and didn't bother correcting it, or he was an active part in shaping the statement.

    Is anyone else sick of the "Obama had no idea and isn't responsible" line? It just comes up way too often... I'm not saying that Bush was any better (so let's not go there), but c'mon... Let's recognize the obvious.

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. yourconscience

    my favorite part was the one where it said "President Obama's uncle, granted permission Tuesday by a federal immigration judge to stay in the United States, where he has lived illegally for the past five decades."

    what the?? no wonder democrats have been about letting the illegals stay.. looks like one of the men on top was looking to get his own family here. what a crock!

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. bob

    When will people wake up and see his whole administration along with his life has been one big lie. He lies like its the truth. I honestly think he has lied so much he believes his own lies. What a sorry excuse for a man. One day it will all come out how he duped the whole world into believing his lies. Wake up sheeple follow your master right off the cliff.

    December 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. W

    This is the kind of silliness that Republicans obsess about.

    They'll probably call for impeachment.

    December 6, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. Shawn

    It's a big deal cause our president lived with an illegal immigrant!

    December 6, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. neoritter

    Oh what a surprise! Obama didn't know. We never asked him, so he didn't lie obviously...

    Get real, if you still believe this schtick coming from the White House, I just pity you.

    December 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. George

    At least he didn't lie about chemical weapons in Iraq!

    December 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. grassroot

    It matters as it's a pattern and matter of course for him, Obmer, to lie about everything
    from his past. This American Pravda is always covering for their shoo-in. The perss
    is and was supposed to be keeping the would be dictators honest, wow what a concept.
    But now we have a state controlled, by aquesence, doing his dirty work.

    December 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. tm1946

    For some reason, Democrats seem to love, there are hidden aspects to Pres. Os life. Records sealed, no info. In an ear of 24/7 news coverage seem odd to anyone else that there is not a single person who knows any thing about his activities?

    Just saying, guess when you lie down with dogs, should not be surprised to get fleas – question is anyone in the media listening.

    December 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. James

    If the president admitted he had lived with his uncle after the DUI it would not have changed my opinion of him. We don't chose our family. But why lie about such a small stupid thing. We have all know a person that lies about everything. I guess he knows that the press will not fact check his answers. This lie is more concerning than the others. Lying about a big thing is one thing but lying about a small things shows a different level of deceit.

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Joe

    To those saying it wasn't a lie I have to ask what is a lie? Is it possible the original statement did not come through Obama? Yes, but that still doesn't mean it isn't a lie.. Regardless of who it came from the original statement that they never met is an out right lie. If you don't know the answer you don't make up one. Simple answer to the question of 'Did he know or meet his uncle in Mass?' would be I don't know, Obama never mentioned him though. Instead we get an administration that will lie about minor things such as did you ever meet so and so.

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. ManWiththe1000PoundBrain

    Who cares? And this is news because???? Only the tin foil hat/racist tea party crowd would care about something like this and then try to make something out of nothing.

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. Dave

    It is sure simpler just to tell the truth; then you don't have to get your stories straight latter:)

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. mgordon7

    @ Virginia..... See Richard Nixon

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. svscnn

    Not buying this explanation. It was an election year, and the President had every motivation to hide the fact that he ever knowingly lived with an illegal immigrant relative.

    And if his staff really were "mistaken" in that original assertion, he was at least, aware of it, and should have immediately corrected the situation. He didn't though, so regardless of the semantics, he lied or allowed a lie to persist.

    Disappointing, but not entirely out of character from his tenure as POTUS.

    December 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. david shoup

    Tomorrow is the day of infamy! What lies and withholding of truths led to that day.... just in WMDs found in Iraq!!!

    December 6, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Jean

    So are we even sure that the president attended Law School. Or was he absent the day they taught what it takes to make a law? School House Rock has a 3 minutes refresher course. Maybe he should watch it.

    December 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. resident

    Another lie from our President, Joe Isuzu!

    December 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. John D.

    Not impeachment. But just more lies. I guess I am silly that I prefer the truth over lies.

    December 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. woodie

    Maybe he was trading arms for hostages like Reagan.

    December 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  22. RachaelA

    Just one lie after another from this administration. And those who say it is no big deal have to look at the totality of all the lies. There have been so many on every topic under the sun!! A lie is a lie whether big or small. Yet still the democrats give him a pass every time. I just don't get it.

    December 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  23. Ron Bourgeois

    Barry Obama ( as he was known to his grandparents & school friends in East Honolulu) continues to confirm the assessment of his character in "The Amateur" by Klein. Why deny ever meeting or knowing an uncle who you stayed with for brief period in the pas?. Is there some politically dangerous family secret that would have blocked his road to the White House? Those Obama supporters on this blog have to face the reality that Obama is a sociopath. The litmus test will be what he will do after the presidency. Will he follow Bill Clinton & George W. Bush who devote their time and effort to charity and causes or will he follow the path of Al Gore and pursue personal enrichment?

    December 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  24. Carrie

    The Illegals are saying go President!!!!!

    December 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. pottershop2

    more lies. What's new. Illegal Immigration Amnesty has started "because he has been a good man". I guess a DUI and 50 years of illegal activity (living in the country illegally) doesn't count.

    December 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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