, WASHINGTON, Dec 5 – The White House reversed course in Thursday, saying that President Barack Obama had lived briefly with an uncle who has just won a reprieve from deportation – despite previously indicating they had not met.
Kenya-born Onyango Obama, 69, a half-brother of the president’s late father, won the right to stay in the United States as a permanent resident after a federal court ruling on Tuesday.
The White House had said in November 2011, when news of the uncle’s immigration hearings first surfaced, that there was no evidence that Obama had ever met his uncle.
But Onyango Obama contradicted those statements in the court hearing, saying the young Barack Obama had stayed with him while he was a student at Harvard Law School.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday that no one in the president’s press office had previously asked the US leader if he had known his uncle – as he tried to explain the apparently misleading earlier White House statements.
He said he circled back to check with the president following the latest court case.
“I thought it was the right thing to do to go ask him. Nobody had asked him in the past, and the president said that he, in fact, had met (his uncle) when he moved to Cambridge for law school, and that he stayed with him for a brief period of time until the president’s apartment was ready.”
“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.”
He said the president had not seen his uncle in 20 years and not spoken to him for around 10 years.
The White House says it has had no involvement in the uncle’s case and that it was handled appropriately by US immigration authorities.
Onyango Obama arrived in the United States in October 1963 on a student visa and has lived in the Boston region ever since.
At a hearing in Boston, at which he was granted a permanent resident’s green card, Onyango Obama testified that his nephew was the US president.
“I do have a nephew,” he was quoted as saying by The Boston Globe.
“He’s the president of the United States.”