Unforgiving: Obama Grants Fewer Pardons than Previous Presidents

Tuesday, December 03, 2013
President Obama pardons a turkey (photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

The annual White House tradition of pardoning turkeys before Thanksgiving prompted the media to review President Barack Obama’s history so far of pardoning convicted criminals.


Not counting this year, Obama’s record reveals he has pardoned fewer prisoners than any president in the past 30 years.


From 2009 through 2012, the president’s pardon ratio (those pardoned versus the number eligible) was 1 in 290.


Compare this to his four predecessors in the Oval Office:


George W. Bush: 1 in 55

Bill Clinton: 1 in 16

George H.W. Bush: 1 in 19

Ronald Reagan: 1 in 8


In fact, some years Obama has pardoned more turkeys than humans. Obama has pardoned two birds every year since 2009, compared with zero people in 2009 and 2012.


In 2010, he pardoned nine people, and in 2011, it was 13.


Obama has been more generous this year, now that he’s been reelected. Seventeen pardons have been handed out so far in 2013, giving him a ratio of 1 in 35 through the first 11 months.


When it comes to commutation of prison sentences, his administration has granted just one out of 5,371 total applications.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Presidential Turkey Pardon Insults the Real People Who Deserve to Be Pardoned (by Emma Roller, Slate)

20% Of Obama’s Pardons Have Gone To Turkeys (by Andrew Sullivan, The Dish)

Obama’s Clemency Rate Lowest in Recent Presidential History (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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