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. anthony

    aliar is always a liar. it doesnt matter small thing or big thing. he always lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. TTown

    Does this community organizer ever tell the truth about anything. Lie, after lie, after lie and when he gets caught, out come his apostles, I mean apologists. Good grief!

    December 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Bart

    It's up to the people to call BS on the WH – Once they begin to understand we are not all idiots, they may actually get something meaningful accomplished.

    December 6, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. Jim

    Another day, another obama lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. RW0r1d

    Poor Carney. It is his credibility on the line as well and "no one asked the President" as a response... seriously? At least some past CICs waited until they left office before they started admitting they misled, this one is so arrogant he's started housecleaning while still warming the chair in his final years.

    December 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Todd Covey

    This President is a disgrace to the Office he holds.
    Regardless of your Political ties how are we as American Tax paying Citizens expected to believe anything our President say's ?

    Wake UP !

    December 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. nelbert

    If you like your uncle, you can keep your uncle.

    Just more of Barry's lies. Nothing new here.

    December 6, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. T. Lee

    TTown = partisan m*ron not willing to talk about the wreck the last Republican administration left behind

    December 6, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. DeathsChoice

    Lol @ the people who are using the "WMD" defense to justify this habitual liar. So as long as someone in the past lied then its cool for the current president to lie about everything? Youre the reason this country is going to hell in a hand basket... because 2 wrongs being a right has become the answer.

    December 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Bill D

    If this White House didn't tell so many lies, they would have a lot less to retract.

    December 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. anthony

    to the liberals , bush already left 5yrs do u still miss him?

    December 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. Neverland911

    What a disgrace.

    December 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. Sidewinder

    By all means, lets distract from GOPs racist agenda against Obama by not doing their jobs and focus on this meaningless aspect of Obama's life from 1988. Maybe some other former Disney kid is twerking somewhere, quick, lets mobilize a 24/7 news vigil on that....pffft!

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. TewksburyBob

    surprise surprise...and you can keep your health insurance too. Zero credibility at this point.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Damon Bowman

    How lazy is the office of the White House press secretary? Am I to believe that with this question popping up two years ago nobody ever thought to ask the president? That's sad. I understand there are more pressing issues to query the president over, but how long would it have taken at the end of a presidential briefing to say, "Mr President, one final thing. Did you ever have contact with your uncle from Kenya?"

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. lawrence decicco

    Lie about big things, lie about small things just same old stuff about this president.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. GD

    He's a real piece of work...

    I love how his sheeple make relative comparison's to defend him.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. troof

    for the people who say it is no big deal he lived with his uncle, you are correct. That is not the issue.....the issue is the cover up. If they will lie about little things like this, then they are for sure not telling the truth about almost anything else.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  19. Amanda

    Another nail in the coffin of Obama's credibility. The motto of this administration is, "Lie until you get caught, then say no one knew." Lie, lie, lie. Makes one wonder what other lies are still uncovered.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  20. Faux Scandals

    Oh no, not another rightwing non-scandal.

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. Sherri

    No one ASKED the President if he knew this person? Seriously? Why would they not even ask? Now they say he LIVED with the guy? For three weeks. Something is wrong here. It does make us wonder what else we were told, that is not true. I voted for this guy, (lesser of two evils) but he has seriously disappointed many folks. If I were that uncle, I'd be insulted that my nephew (through his staff) denied even meeting me. Uncle most likely supported him, fed him etc and then Obama's camp says "they never met".

    December 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. shorething

    More lies from Obama? Of course Obama only knows how to lie.

    December 6, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. Julie

    I'm pretty sure every lies Anthony, big and small. And as stated above, the President was never consulted, it was just assumed that he did not live with his uncle. There is no back-track, it is simply a clarification of a statement.

    December 6, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  24. ru serious

    Campaigner-in-Chief. Best winner of elections and rousing speech-giver but very bad actual President. Hopefully this is not the way of the future...electing quasi-celebrity types, good on the campaign trail but horrible at actually running the country. Had high hopes that the 1st 4 years might have given him some much needed experience but apparently not. He's turned out to be an empty suit Chicago political hack who has done nothing but divide this country even further. Sad.

    December 6, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. Anonymous

    omg... how could he lie about that.. How could he lie about bunking at his uncles house 30 years ago..

    WMD, ENRON... Nuff said.

    December 6, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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