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. indytom87

    Seriously, how can anyone believe anything the WH says anymore? Credibility has been beaten to death. I am not sure I would believe them if they said the sun was going to rise tomorrow.

    December 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. Promised Land

    It matters because his Uncle was here illegally. Should it matter that the leader of this country is truthful? Should the people of this country have faith in that our highest leader will conduct herself or himself with the highest integrity? Come on people, stop the party loyalty crap because it is tearing our country apart. Do the right thing!

    December 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Tony

    I call BS! Why would the White House make a defintive statement about the president, without actually consulting with Obama? And once Obama heard the statement, why would he allow it to go uncorrected?

    This just isn't believable...

    December 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. Joe

    Why would Obama's administration make a statement about Obama's past, without asking him a simple question? This really comes across as a cover up, once again. If you wanted to know if Obama had ever met his uncle, why not simply ask him and get the real answer? Doesn't make any sense to me that one of his staffers would put out a statement about Obama's personal relationships with others, without asking the man directly. What exactly are they trying to cover up now?

    December 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. StandardIssue

    Another Obama lie exposed. Are you people keeping count of all the lies? And these are just the ones that we know about.

    December 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Rob

    I think his uncle voted 6 times for his nephew

    December 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Tim

    Yet another one, how can anyone believe him. For this idiot it is death by an insane number of paper cuts.

    December 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  8. sam p

    I don't think all his lies come even close to the biggest " Saddam has WMD" in history of this nation. Do you all the big mouths remember that one? Talk about double standards.

    December 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. Jane Q Doe

    Obama's entire life is one big lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. Harold Weisenheimer

    So much for immigration reform...he has a conflict on interest in doing it.

    December 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  11. Ceswho

    The mantra of this administration has been– why tell the truth when it's just as easy to lie. How can anyone believe anything that comes out of the White House?

    December 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  12. Marc

    Lets see now... the lies of the RePIGlicans from WMD's and the Iraqi war..... the entire Bush family are evil and the GOP too. People that live in glass houses.....

    December 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. me

    Habitual liar.... ! And we should trust him?

    December 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. Tad1950

    Another lie by the biggest liar we have ever had in the White House....guess George made him do it....just saying.

    December 6, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Harry101

    I'm not suprized at all.

    December 6, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  16. sumgy

    It's pretty simple, he had his minions lie about it, so he could have plausible deniability. The fact that he lived with his illegal immigrant uncle really doesn't matter all that much, but the way this administration continuously treats us all like we're a bunch of fools does start to wear on you after a while.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  17. Pest

    If you defend blatant dishonesty only when it comes from "your guy", then you might just be a partisan hack.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. aroomadazda

    Name the last president who hasn't lied or covered something up. I am going with James A. Garfield.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. powerfail

    "The White House was asked about their relationship in 2011 at which time the administration denied the President and his Kenyan uncle had ever met. "

    The liar-in-chief. We have a deceitful, dishonest, partisan president with three more years to go. He can no longer hide his lies…even CNN is turning on him. He will be his own demise.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. maestra888

    Obama loves to lie. He lies when telling the truth would be easier. There is not one speck of honesty or integrity in that man, and Americans have elected him twice. Actually says more about us than it does about him.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. Ryan in Texas

    You Lie!

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. DJ Reality

    To all the people making a big deal out of this. Please get a long with your lives. Wow! President Obama lived for three weeks with his uncle from Kenya. Gee I don't see the big deal.I guess for those who don't have much else to worry about it is.

    December 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. James

    This is just an opinion, but I'm guessing that the press is sitting on many of these little stories about his sealed past! The Obama's have learned from the best, "the Clintons"!

    December 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. T. Lee

    Laughing at all the stupid trolls and Obama-bashers because that's all they are about – having done absolutely nothing themselves to at least try and deal with the massive train wreck left by the last Republican administration.

    December 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. tasoma

    Yet another lie and correction from this administration.

    December 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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