The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Barack Obama had met -- and even stayed with -- an uncle who has had immigration troubles -- a clear contradiction of what the White House has been telling news organizations for more than a year.
The White House first told the Boston Globe in a story published Thursday that Obama had lived with his Kenyan uncle for a brief period in the 1980s while preparing to attend Harvard Law School. It had previously said it had no record of the two ever meeting.
The Globe said the White House attributed the reversal to not fully researching the relationship before telling the newspaper it had no record of them meeting. The press office told the Globe that this time, it asked Obama directly, which it hadn't in 2011.
“The President first met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “The President did stay with him for a brief period of time until his apartment was ready. After that, they saw each other once every few months, but after law school they fell out of touch. The President has not seen him in 20 years, has not spoken with him in 10.”
The newspaper said the pair's relationship came into question on Tuesday at the deportation hearing of his uncle, Onyango Obama, in Boston immigration court. The Globe said the uncle had lived in the United States illegally since the 1970s and revealed in testimony "that his famous nephew had stayed at his Cambridge apartment for about three weeks. At the time, Onyango Obama was here illegally and fighting deportation."
The immigration judge on Tuesday granted Obama legal residency based on what he said was good moral character and a section of federal law that allows him to get a green card because he arrived before 1972, the Globe reported.
At the White House on Thursday, press secretary Jay Carney said that when the subject came up in 2011, staffers "looked at the president’s records, including the president’s book" and found no reference to the uncle.
"That was what was conveyed," Carney said. "No one had spoken to the president."
When the issue was revived this week during the trial, Carney said, “I thought it was the right thing to do to go" and ask the president.
Carney said Obama and his uncle fell out of touch and that Obama's not seen him in 20 years, and has not spoken to him in 10 years.
He insisted that Obama’s uncle's immigration case was handled with "zero interference" from Obama or the White House.
Carney earlier this week called the deportation hearing a "legal matter that should be addressed over at the Department of Justice" and said he hadn't talked about the case with Obama.
In his 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," Obama wrote about his 1988 trip to Kenya and referred to an Uncle Omar. Onyango Obama also goes by Omar.