Trump Pardons 'Corn' and 'Cob' - Here's Why
How do you feel about the turkey-pardon tradition?
by Causes | 11.24.20
What’s the story?
- President Donald Trump on Tuesday participated in the annual White House turkey pardon, granting a reprieve to Corn and Cob.
- “We’re here to continue a beloved annual tradition,” the president said. “Thanksgiving is a special day for turkeys. Probably, for the most part, not a very good one, when you think about it."
- Trump thanked health care workers, first responders, scientists and the armed forces.
“From our earliest days, American has always been a story of perseverance and triumph, determination and strength, loyalty and faith. This week, in a time that is very unusual but, in so many ways, very very good, what we’ve endured and been able to endure.”
- In 2018, Trump joked about one of the turkeys contesting the pardon election. The scenario was surprisingly prescient:
- "This was a fair election," the president joked. "Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we're still fighting with Carrots. But I will tell you, we've come to a conclusion. Carrots. I'm sorry to tell you, the result did not change. That's too bad for Carrots."
Why do presidents pardon turkeys?
- According to the White House Historical Association, Abraham Lincoln was the first president to pardon a turkey, although the tradition didn’t start until much later in U.S. history. Apparently, someone brought a live turkey to the Lincoln White House for Christmas in 1863, but Lincoln’s son Tad was so horrified by the idea of killing and eating the bird that Honest Abe decided to spare the bird’s life.
- Beginning in the 1873, "Poultry King" Horace Vose sent turkeys to the White House every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the First Family to enjoy until his death in 1913. But the Vose turkeys, which the WHHA notes “never weighed fewer than 30 pounds and sometimes topped the scales at 50 pounds,” were already “slaughtered and dressed.”
- It wasn’t until Harry S. Truman took office that uneaten turkeys became a tradition at the White House. In the wake of World War II, Truman had instituted an unofficial set of food-saving policies to help the U.S. and Europe recover from the war, including "Meatless Tuesdays," “Eggless Mondays” and, yes, “Poultryless Thursdays.” The latter infuriated the poultry lobby in the U.S. and farmers started sending birds to the White House in protest. Many pin the origins of the turkey pardon to a gobbler sent to Truman for Christmas, 1947, just after he ended the policy.
- But the Truman library argues that he never actually pardoned the turkey, he just took a photo with one. Truman apparently even joked at the time that he could send it home to his family in Missouri where it would feed 25 of his relatives, according to CBS News.
- From President John F. Kennedy forward, presidents have held similar photo-ops with donated live turkeys every year. But it wasn’t until George H.W. Bush took office in 1989 that the term "pardon" was used and the tradition was truly hatched.
- Now, two turkeys are sent to the White House annually, with one chosen as the official turkey to be pardoned. President Obama was the first president to pardon both turkeys when he took office in 2009, after some pleading by his daughters Sasha and Malia.
What will happen to Corn and Cob?
- Corn and Cob will peck away their remaining days on the campus of Iowa State University.
—Josh Herman & Sarah Mimms
(Screenshot from the White House's YouTube channel)
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