The White House Turkey Pardon is surely one of the President’s oddest duties. And while it ranks somewhere below Commander-in-Chief in importance, it’s one that Obama has appeared to relish over these past eight years. And it turns out, the turkey pardon is way more complicated than you’d think. Every year, two turkeys are selected from different farms around the country and presented to the president on behalf of the National Turkey Federation.
While Obama’s presidency will be remembered for many precedent-shattering actions, the turkey pardoning created at least one poultry-related one. Traditionally, only one turkey was pardoned and the understudy returned to the farm. According to ABC News, after a request from Malia and Sasha, Obama began pardoning both turkeys, though only one gets the official on-camera clemency.
In honor of Obama’s final turkey pardoning, we’ve rounded up all eight years of him executing this weird and hallowed tradition. It’s a great way to brush up on both your presidential and turkey trivia ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and revisit some of Obama’s finest dad jokes of years past.
In 2010, Apple was the lucky turkey up for pardoning. Even Obama couldn’t keep his face straight as he explained that Apple and his understudy, Cider, were chosen through a poultry version of Dancing with the Stars. No less than 25 turkeys had to “strut their stuff” before a panel of judges at the turkey farm in California. The prize, Obama explained, was “life,” as well as a trip to D.C.and a stay at the W Hotel.
This year, neither Obama daughter bites when Obama asks if they want to pet the turkey.
In 2011, Obama’s turkey pardon jokes got outwardly political as he mocked his own love of executive orders as well as the press’s ability to “gobble without really saying anything.” This year’s turkeys, Peace and Liberty, were actually raised by high school students who, Obama revealed, were prepped for their media attention by being exposed to loud noises and flashing lights.
After the pardoning, both Peace and Liberty retired, like George Washington, to Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Only recently reelected a few weeks before, in 2012 Obama pardoned two turkeys who also were at the mercy of public opinion. Cobbler and Gobbler were the first-ever White House turkeys to be chosen by popular vote. Obama joked that, just like with the national election, “Nate Silver completely nailed it,” predicting the winners. And now, like Obama’s administration, “these birds are moving forward.”
Cobbler, the turkey that made it onto TV, turned out to be a very vocal White House guest, gobbling throughout the press conference and his own pardoning.
In 2014, the turkey pardon got moved indoors because of inclement weather, and despite years of Obama’s insistence that his daughters love the annual event, both Malia and Sasha are beginning to have the look of two teenagers who realize just how embarrassing their dad can be.
That year’s turkeys, Mac and Cheese, were saved from what Obama termed a “terrible and delicious fate” to live out their days in a wildlife preserve in Virginia.
In 2015, Obama couldn’t resist poking fun at the GOP and Democratic primaries, joking that there was a fierce competition between a bunch of turkeys trying to win their way into the White House. This year’s winners were Honest and Abe, and while Obama remarked that Honest “looked like good eating,” he was now “TOTUS,” the turkey of the United States.
Obama also seemed to enjoy seeing his political director getting pecked by the newly-declared TOTUS.
For Obama’s eighth and final turkey pardon, Tater and Tot traveled from Iowa and even got to stay in a fancy D.C. hotel prior to meeting the president. Since only one turkey is officially pardoned on camera (though both get to retire Gobbler’s Rest, a turkey haven at Virginia Tech), the choice was left up to the public to vote on. Tot won with a narrow lead — 51% of the votes.
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