White House changes story on Obama’s uncle

Changing its story, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama had briefly lived in the 1980s with an uncle who faced deportation from the United States.

That contradicts the White House’s previous statement that the president had never met Onyango Obama, also known as Omar Obama and Obama Okech Onyango. The 69-year-old half brother of Obama’s late father was granted permission this week to stay in the U.S. after ignoring a deportation order two decades ago.

Obama’s uncle, who moved the United States from Kenya in 1963 to attend school, allowed his visa to lapse in the 1970s. Following a series of immigration hearings, he was originally ordered deported in 1992, but failed to leave. His immigration status came to light again in 2011, when he was charged with drunk driving in the Boston suburb of Framingham, Mass., where he manages a family owned liquor store.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that when the 2011 case arose, officials looked for records 0f any meeting between Obama and his uncle, but never directly asked the president. They eventually did so this week after the uncle testified in his immigration hearing Monday that his nephew stayed with him for three weeks in Cambridge, Mass., while a student at Harvard Law School.

“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 said. “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.”

That answer was quickly mocked by conservatives. The Drudge Report, a conservative news website, called it a presidential “flip-flop.”

Carney said the men have not seen each other in two decades or spoken in about 10 years. Carney also said president did not intervene in his uncle’s case — “absolutely zero interference.” The Boston Globe reported that critics have raised questions about the way immigration authorities handled the case, allowing Onyango Obama’s release and giving him a work permit during his appeal.

Police said after the drunk driving arrest he told them, “I think I will call the White House.” Asked by a prosecutor about the exchange, he said he might have said that but couldn’t recall. The prosecutor also said Onyango Obama had lied to authorities about having a green card.

The charge was dismissed after he completed a year of probation and 14 weeks of alcohol education classes.

Judge Leonard Shapiro granted the elder Obama permanent residency status following testimony that he had lived quietly, was employed and has been active in his community, helping fellow Africans immigrate and find jobs.

“He appears to me to be a gentleman,” the judge said.

Onyango Obama, who says he holds a philosophy degree from Boston University, told Shapiro he had not returned to Kenya since arriving in the U.S. and would find it difficult to return there after so many years.