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Cannon switch: 'Did I really say that?'

Published February 23, 2008 1:30 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rep. Chris Cannon has a firm stance on immigration.

But it seems to shift depending on his audience.

Wednesday, he took a moderate stance on immigration during a meeting with the editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune. He complained about uneven enforcement while talking up the importance of undocumented workers to the economy and the need for comprehensive reform at the federal level.

But Thursday on a talk radio show and in a meeting with the editorial board of the Deseret Morning News, Cannon appeared to strike a much harder line.

He distanced himself from President Bush's immigration reform efforts and touted his support of a border fence and tougher enforcement.

"Did I really say that?" Cannon asked his spokesman about his comments published in a Tribune story.

Fred Piccolo, the spokesman, confirmed he did.

Still, the six-term Republican congressman on Thursday told conservative talk show host Bob Lonsberry "[The Tribune] was wrong on literally every point that is important to your listeners or to me. I think it's because they have a tendency to hear what they want to hear instead of what people said."

As Lonsberry pushed Cannon on the show, Cannon acknowledged he had made every comment except one. He disputed saying "Do we want to identify them? Then we would paralyze business," when talking about identifying undocumented workers. He said, "I don't know where this quote came from."

Piccolo, who attended the editorial board meeting, confirmed Cannon "indeed said those things."

"For our voters it would be very important to explain those perceived inflammatory quotes," Piccolo said. "He had to go out and put the quotes attributed to him - that he said - in context."

Jason Chaffetz, a Republican running against Cannon, said he has come to expect a "flip and a flop at every turn."

Chaffetz was listening to Lonsberry's program Thursday and contacted The Tribune about Cannon's denials.

"He can't fool the electorate anymore," Chaffetz said in a later interview.

Piccolo defended his boss as having strong opinions on immigration, but said it was a matter of stressing certain things more than others.

"Even I was shaking my head," Piccolo acknowledged. "What he should have done was put more emphasis on the larger context."

That's what Piccolo said happened in the meeting with the News, where Cannon's brother, Joe, is editor.

In that meeting, Cannon said states should have a role in immigration law, but still said that immigration reform should be tackled by Washington. He also said he did not support President Bush's immigration reform bill "this term." But he was one of the strongest backer's of Bush's reform proposal, which became the central issue of his 2006 re-election campaign.

smcfarland@sltrib.com

The Swift Raid in Hyrum:

"The Republicans planned it for October so they could say 'Vote for me, I'm tough on immigration.' But then it didn't happen until December, so they ruined people's Christmas."

Speaking to The Tribune

"It actually is my view but not because I don't think we ought to be enforcing our laws rather because of the way it was done."

On Bob Lonsberry's talk radio program

On immigration reform:

"I never supported the legislation that was comprehensive because it was fundamentally flawed."

On Bob Lonsberry's talk radio program

"I'm sure we'll come up with a bill and it will probably be pretty good legislation. It would probably be a lot like the McCain bill," Cannon said, referring to a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others that would allow undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship without having to return to their home country.

To The Tribune, Dec. 2006

Citizenship screening for potential employees:

"Do we want to identify them? Then we would paralyze business."

To The Tribune

"You have to have a program whereby the government identifies people who are appropriate for hiring, but that comes with certain civil liberty infringements."

On Bob Lonsberry

* Link to Bob Lonsberry's interview: http:// http://www.570knrs.com/ pages/bobs blog.html