American Tradition to Continue: President Trump to Pardon Turkeys Next Week

Nick Kangadis | November 19, 2020
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I’m not going to be a “Debbie Downer” about the long-standing American tradition of pardoning a turkey in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday, like CNN and Fox News were in their articles on the subject. It is traditions that we all know and love that will keep us regular folks from going insane during the dumpster fire that is 2020.

President Donald Trump is deciding to go through as planned with the annual turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House next Tuesday, granting a reprieve for two turkeys.

The turkeys will reportedly come from a sixth-generation Iowa farm, owned by this year’s National Turkey Federation Chairman Ron Kardel. Following the presidential pardon, the turkeys will live the remainder of their days at Iowa State University (ISU).

According to the White House Historical Association, the annual turkey pardoning can be traced back to 1863 when Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, made a plea to his father to spare the turkey. Others claim the tradition was started by President Harry S. Truman. But, the ceremony was apparently cemented into place by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

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.”

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.

Whatever the origins of the event might be, two very lucky turkeys won’t have to stick their necks out for Thanksgiving this year.