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Reversal: Obama acknowledges living with Kenyan uncle in 1980s

The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Obama briefly lived with his Kenyan uncle as he prepared to attend Harvard Law School, despite insisting in 2011 that there was no record of the two ever meeting.

The scrutiny of the relationship between Mr. Obama and his paternal uncle Onyango Obama was renewed this week in the wake of the elder Obama’s deportation hearing on Tuesday, during which he revealed that his nephew lived at his apartment in Cambridge, Mass. for three weeks during the 1980s.

In 2011, the White House explained, the press office did not ask the president directly whether he had ever met his uncle. This time, when he was asked, the president confirmed his relationship with his uncle, whom he calls “Omar.”

“Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president’s book and there was no evidence they had met and that was what was conveyed. Nobody spoke to the president,” explained White House spokesman Jay Carney. But after seeing reports of the uncle’s testimony at his hearing, Carney said he thought it might be the “right thing to do” to ask the president.

“The president said he in fact had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school and he stayed with him for a brief period of time,” Carney said, adding that the president has not seen his uncle in roughly 20 years, and he has not spoken with him in roughly 10 years.

At his hearing, Onyango Obama was granted permission to stay in the United States despite the fact that he disregarded an order to leave the country in 1992.  In his ruling, the judge cited a statute that makes immigrants eligible for permanent residency if they arrived in America before 1972, maintained continuous residence, and demonstrated good moral character.

The White House said the elder Obama’s immigration case was processed without any interference from the president or his administration.

Onyango Obama is the second family member of the president’s to be found living without proper documentation in the United States. In November 2008, just days before the presidential election, Mr. Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyango was revealed to be living in Boston despite having been served a deportation order in 2004. She was ultimately granted asylum in 2010.