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In between muscling the Build Back Better Act through the U.S. House of Representatives and departing for the holiday, President Joe Biden made time for another executive duty: The pardoning of two turkeys. Lisa Desjardins is back with this report on how the thanksgiving tradition began.
In between muscling the Build Back Better act through the House of Representatives and departing for the holiday, President Biden made time for another executive duty, the pardoning of two turkeys.
Lisa Desjardins is back now with this report on how the Thanksgiving tradition began.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: I pardon you.
A new president carrying on an old Thanksgiving tradition.
There you go.
Before leaving Washington for the holiday, President Biden spared two lucky turkeys, Peanut Butter and Jelly, from the dinner or lunch table.
I have to admit to you — my wife doesn't like me to admit it — that's what I like for lunch, peanut butter and jelly.
Sprinkling in political dad jokes, Biden said he's nuts about progress on his Build Back Better bill and joked about his bird in the hand, the new infrastructure law.
Folks, turkey is infrastructure. Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help build back the Butterball.
This tradition has happened every November for the past quarter-century. But there are some, let's say, ruffled feathers about how it all got started.
Bill Clinton, Former President Of The United States:
President Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey.
Nope, not true. Truman was the first president to receive a turkey from the National Turkey Federation. But there's no record of a pardon.
According to the White House Historical Association, Truman instead quipped that the birds would come in handy for Christmas dinner. So, who was the first president to save a turkey? Lincoln is the first on record. After the appeal of his young son Tad, the Christmas turkey became a pet.
President John F. Kennedy was the first to spare a Thanksgiving bird. In 1963, despite a sign hanging around the turkey's neck that read, "Good eating, Mr. President," Kennedy sent the gobbler back to the farm.
Richard Nixon followed, retiring his turkeys to a nearby petting zoo. Ronald Reagan carved out a spot in history himself by being the first to use the word pardon when talking turkey in 1987. The tradition became formalized in 1989, with President George H.W. Bush.
George H.W. Bush, Former President of the United States: Let me assure you, and this fine Tom turkey that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy.
The event has become a centerpiece of White House holiday tradition.
This is the eighth I have had the privilege to meet and set free in the Rose Garden.
Some birds have more flare than others, like Jerry the turkey, who sported a White House pass around his neck in 2000. And some years add more fun, like, in 2004, when the George W. Bush White House let online voters choose the turkeys' names.
George W. Bush, Former President of the United States: This is an election year, and Biscuits had to earn his spot at the White House. Biscuits and his running mate, Gravy, prevailed over the ticket of Patience and Fortitude.
The tradition adjusts to the times. Last year, President Donald Trump pardoned Corn and Cob at a time when the pandemic kept most families apart for Thanksgiving. The president offered hope for a reprieve from disease.
Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: We give thanks for the vaccines and therapies that will soon end the pandemic.
In contrast, this year's event, post-vaccine, featured a live jam-band, a spread-out crowd, toasts and puns about booster shots.
Yes, instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted.
All Peanut Butter and his wingman, Jelly, know is that their journey from a farm in Jasper, Indiana won't end in an oven or fryer this Thanksgiving.
They're heading back to the Hoosier State to be academics, or at least near academics, living out their days at Purdue University.
For the turkiest "NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Tess Conciatori is a politics production assistant at PBS NewsHour.
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