WASHINGTON — President Reagan refused today to discuss the question of presidential pardons for people involved in the Iran-Contra affair, saying, "I can't answer that."
Asked about the possibility of such pardons during a photo session in the Rose Garden, Reagan said, "That's a question no one can answer."
When reporters responded that he could answer such a question, Reagan shot back, "No, I can't."
The President appeared in the Rose Garden at the traditional presentation of the White House Thanksgiving turkey. Asked about the turkey's future, Reagan quipped, "I'll pardon him."
Queried again whether he intended to pardon Oliver L. North, John M. Poindexter and Robert C. McFarlane on Thanksgiving Day, the President responded, "There is no answer to that. . . . I can't answer that."
Earlier, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater refused to discuss the possibility of presidential pardons but criticized the press for "idle speculation and ill-founded rumors."
His comment was triggered by a story in the New York Times that said there is "a hot, widely discussed, wholly unconfirmed rumor" that Reagan will issue pardons Thanksgiving Day for Poindexter and McFarlane, two former national security advisers, and North, an aide on the National Security Council staff.
The three former aides were key participants in the Iran-Contra affair, which is the subject of investigation by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh.
"We don't discuss pardons, period," Fitzwater said.
'Skeleton Crews' Advised
Reagan will be at his mountaintop ranch in California on Thanksgiving Day. He will leave Washington on Tuesday and return Sunday.
"I don't expect any significant news on this trip and I would send out skeleton crews to cover it," Fitzwater said.
He said Reagan will review briefing books for the summit with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, beginning Dec. 8, while most of the presidential staff remains in Washington planning for the meeting.
He said the pardon story was a "media phenomenon."
"I don't want to lend any credence at all to these media rumors," he said. Comment on it, he added, would "just lend credence to idle speculation and ill-founded rumors."