Behind the yuk-yuk dad jokes of the annual presidential amnesty for Turkey now is a very strange, sometimes obscure and often misunderstood history, even by presidents.
On Monday, President Biden will once again “pardon” a turkey — though they did nothing wrong. They come from farms in North Carolina, stay in a hotel room and even have social media accounts.
But why do they do that, you ask? Good question. It’s one your author has been asking for for 13 years now.
We’ve got some answers for you, but the bottom line is, this event is basically the biggest PR stunt of the year in a turkey parlour, and has a head-slapping reason for being “oops” and the birds were never meant to be rescued, they were meant to be eaten. .
Yes, there is a Turkish lobby
It’s not a huge lobby group, though, because the Turkish National Union ranks in the top 5% of outside groups that have posed for members of Congress, political action committees, and the like.
For the 2022 cycle, it gave away about $340,000 — three-quarters of which went to Republicans — and has spent more than $3 million on lobbying efforts since 1998, according to a search of the OpenSecrets lobbying database.
Despite the pardon, the website of the Federation of Turkey Verbatim EatTurkey.org. So the point here is very clear.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses a fight.
The Turkey Federation has been giving turkeys to presidents since 1947. But these turkeys were originally It is meant to be eatennot excused.
The first Thanksgiving turkey scored for a reprieve was in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy received a 40-pound turkey with a tag around its neck that read “Good Eat, Mr. President!”
“We’ll let this one grow,” Kennedy said.
a Los Angeles Times An article dated November 20, 1963 about the event of the previous day had the headline: “Turkey Receives Presidential Pardon”.
There has been some confusion about the history of Turkey’s presidential pardons, sown by anyone but the presidents who issued the pardons.
“Let me once again thank the Patriotic Federation of Turkey on the anniversary of the donation of a Thanksgiving turkey to the White House every year for 50 years,” President Bill Clinton said in 1997. More Turkey in Washington, a second chance.
Funny line, but it’s not true.
Maybe you got a big turkey included In 1947, but as mentioned earlier, turkeys were a gift to the presidents and their families for their own consumption.
Clinton then added more bluntly, also incorrectly:
“President Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey.”
Too false. The Truman Library disputed this in 2003, writing:
“Library staff have not found any documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, or other contemporary records in our holdings that indicate Truman pardoning a gift turkey in 1947, or at any other time during his presidency. Truman sometimes referred to reporters,” he said. The turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table.”
Even as the record is set — year after year now in the authors’ columns — former President Trump got it wrong in 2019 about his assets, too.
“It was said that Abraham Lincoln was the first to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving,” he said.
not exactly. Lincoln did cut a turkey, but it was for him birthday No Thanksgiving.
Almost 100 years before Kennedy’s unintentional pardon, it was stated in an 1865 letter from White House Correspondent Noah Brooks:
“[A] A live turkey was brought home for Christmas dinner, however [Lincoln’s son Tad] intercede for his life. … [Tad’s] The petition was granted and Turkey’s life was spared.”
The tradition of sending turkeys to chiefs (to be eaten) dates back at least 73 years before the industry was involved.
Harold Vose of Rhode Island, a man then known as the “Poultry King,” sent Thanksgiving and turkeys unofficially to the White House from 1873 until his death in 1913, according to the White House Historical Society.
After that, turkeys came from all over the country.
The White House Historical Association notes:
In 1921, an American Legionnaire was preparing bunting for a sandbox en route from Mississippi to Washington, while the Harding Girls Club of Chicago was preparing a turkey as a flying trophy, with goggles on. First Lady Grace Coolidge accepted a turkey from a Girl Scout in Vermont in 1925.”
So what is happening now is not even the most ridiculous in the history of this strange tradition.
Occasional wording of a phrase to steer clear of scandal
Kennedy never used the word pardon when referring to his bird.
Ronald Reagan was the first president to do so with the reference to letting the turkey go – a joke that deviated from the Iran-Contra scandal.
During the annual turkey presentation in 1987, Sam Donaldson of ABC News pressed Reagan on whether to pardon two key players involved in the arms sale, Oliver North and John Poindexter.
Reagan was already willing to let the turkeys presented to him go to the petting zoo, as Nixon had done earlier. He answered this way:
“If they had given me a different answer about Charlie and his future, I would have pardoned him for him. “
After this informal use of the word, the event was formalized by Vice President George H. W. Bush in his first year as president.
“[L]”And I assure you, this wonderful turkey Tom, it’s not going to end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy,” Bush said in 1989. Days at Children’s Farm not far from here.”
Thus began a (strange) presidential tradition.
spend their days (limited)
For years now, turkeys have been spending the rest of their days—perhaps limited—at “Gobbler’s Rest” in Virginia Tech’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science.
“Virginia Tech has a long tradition of supporting the turkey industry through research and outreach,” Ramy Dalloul, a Virginia Tech professor, said in a press release two years ago. “So it’s only fitting that Presidential Turks become part of Hokie Nation is a new tradition.”
Virginia Tech said that Dalloul is “a world-renowned poultry immunologist who sequenced the genome of a turkey a few years ago.”
But PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, doesn’t think it’s an appropriate place to retire a turkey.
In fact, it launched an ad campaign saying that turkeys were “pardoned in Washington” and “punished in Virginia Tech.” They even put up this video about the terms:
Previous turkeys have been to Disneyland and unfortunately Frying Pan Park in Virginia.
And turkeys are again passed around like the hot side on the Thanksgiving table.
It was announced this week that these birds will be returning to Tar Heel State after the amnesty, and will remain for the foreseeable future at the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
According to a local news report, “The turkeys will reside in private quarters at North Carolina State University’s Lake Wheeler Road facilities under the care of university and student poultry experts.”
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