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US National Thanksgiving Turkey receives Presidential pardon

25 November 2020, at 12:00am

US President Donald J. Trump continued the time-honored White House tradition of officially pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey, on Tuesday, November 24. He and the First Lady also took the opportunity to wish Americans a Happy Thanksgiving.

This year’s candidates for National Thanksgiving Turkey were “Corn” and “Cob.” Corn and Cob were raised by Ron Kardel, National Turkey Federation Chairman and a 6th generation turkey, corn and soybean farmer from Walcott, Iowa.

© The White House

Just prior to their pardon, the birds were living the life of luxury in a suite at the Willard Hotel near the White House after their trip from Iowa over the weekend. On Monday, Corn and Cob strutted their stuff at a press conference held on Monday morning.

© US National Turkey Federation

After Tuesday’s pardoning ceremony at the White House, both turkeys will retire to their new home on the campus of Iowa State University.

According to White House historians, the tradition of “pardoning” White House turkeys has been traced to President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks, who noted, “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but [Lincoln’s son Tad] interceded in behalf of its life. . . . [Tad’s] plea was admitted and the turkey’s life spared.”

More recently White House mythmakers have claimed that President Harry S. Truman began this amusing holiday tradition. However, Truman, when he received the turkeys, and subsequent presidents did not “pardon” their birds. The formalities of pardoning a turkey gelled by 1989, when President George H.W. Bush remarked, “Reprieve,” “keep him going,” or “pardon”: it’s all the same for the turkey, as long as he doesn’t end up on the president’s holiday table.

The turkeys sent as gifts to American Presidents have sometimes arrived in elaborate crates and costumes.

In the 1940s, farmers and manufacturers began to send birds to the White House as a means of promoting the poultry industry.

A transcript of President Trump's comments can be read here.