White House reverses course, says Obama lived with Kenyan uncle

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
Onyango Obama, President Barack Obama's Kenyan-born uncle, arrives at U.S. Immigration Court for a deportation hearing Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 in Boston. He has lived in the United States since the 1960s, when he came here as a teenager to attend school. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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Onyango Obama, President Barack Obama's Kenyan-born uncle, arrives at U.S. Immigration Court for a deportation hearing Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 in Boston. He has lived in the United States since the 1960s, when he came here as a teenager to attend school. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Barack Obama lived briefly years ago with a Kenyan uncle previously targeted for deportation — after initially insisting there was no evidence they had ever met.

Why the stark turnaround? “Nobody spoke to the president” when the question first arose in 2011, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

Instead, staff appear to have relied on one of the president’s autobiographical books.

“Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president's book, and there was no evidence that they had met, there was — and that was what was conveyed,” Carney explained.

That appeared to be a reference to “Dreams From My Father,” which famously includes the warning that some people in the book are composites.

Carney also denied any improper White House meddling in the deportation procedures against the elder Obama, whom he described as “his father’s half brother.” The uncle, who has lived in the United States for 50 years, won his fight against deportation this week.

"Absolutely zero interference," the spokesman said.

Here’s some background from the Boston Globe:

"Onyango Obama’s immigration case raised numerous concerns about a potential conflict of interest after his arrest in August 2011 for drunken driving in Framingham. The arrest revealed his outstanding deportation orders and his relationship to the president.

"Shortly after his arrest, he told an officer, “I think I will call the White House.”

The question of the relationship between the two men arose at a recent deportation hearing focused on the uncle. Onyango "Omar" Obama testified that the future president had lived with him in Cambridge for three weeks.

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 explained.

“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,” the spokesman added.

“After that, they saw each other once every few months while the president was in Cambridge, and then, after law school, they gradually fell out of touch. The president has not seen Omar Obama in 20 years and has not spoken with him in roughly 10 years.”

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