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Pardon My Turkey: A Look Back at Past Thanksgiving Traditions at the White House

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The White House turkey pardon tradition has a long and historic past, with rumors of the concept dating back to the Lincoln administration.

During the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, his son tinanong daw his father to rescue a pet turkey from the dining room table.

Rumors suggests that former President Harry S. Truman officially began the tradition of pardoning a turkey in 1947. However, the Truman Library & Museum says that is not the case.

“Library staff did not find any document, speech, newspaper clipping, photograph, or other contemporary record in our possession referring to Truman’s pardon of a turkey he received as a gift in 1947, or at any time during the period. of his Presidency, ”the library said explained.

According to white house, President George HW Bush was the first official to offer a turkey pardon. Since then, every president has upheld the tradition.

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WASHINGTON,: U.S. President Bill Clinton stands with the annual Thanksgiving turkey as his handler Walter Gislason (L) looks at the presentation ceremonies on Nov. 24 at the White House in Washington, DC. The bird, presented to the President of the National Turkish Federation was given an official pardon from being dinner and sent to a local petting zoo. (TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President to Bill Clinton The turkey pardon in 1998 was surprised when a handler needed to chase the bird to the rose garden.

“I must say, in all the years I’ve been here, this is the most adventurous turkey we’ve had,” Clinton said.

The turkey pardon came just months after Clinton admitted having a relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

WASHINGTON,: U.S. President George W. Bush (R) “Liberty” takes care of the turkey at the Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Forgiveness at the White House Rose Garden in Washington, DC November 19, 2001. The turkey goes to a local petting zoo rather than butcher for Thanksgiving. Behind Turkey are Jeff Radford (L), and Stuart Proctor (C), President of the National Turkey Foundation. (LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President George W. Bush continued the tradition by pardoning “Liberty” just two months after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

“We’ve experienced some tough times, some trying moments in recent months, but we’ve never forgotten the blessings around us,” Bush said. said.

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He added, “The freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the many gifts of our prosperous land. On this holiday, we are thankful for our many blessings and for life itself.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 23: Turkey’s National Thanksgiving ‘Tot,’ applauded after U.S. President Barack Obama pardoned him at a ceremony at the Rose Garden at the White House on November 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. The President celebrated the 69th anniversary of the presentation of National Thanksgiving Turkey. Founded and raised in Iowa, the 2016 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its successor will retire to ‘Gobblers Rest’ at Virginia Tech. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In 2016, former President Barack Obama celebrated his last turkey pardon at the White House. Obama commented on his responsibility to forgive birds, “Tater” and “Tot.”

He said, “It’s my great privilege – well, it’s my privilege – actually, let’s just say it’s my job to give them clemency this afternoon.”

Obama also joked about the turkeys, saying, “Here’s Tater in a backup role in case Tot can’t fulfill his duties. So he’s like a vice turkey. We’re trying to give him a pair of aviator glasses. . ”

He also said, “I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the brave turkeys who were less fortunate. Who did not ride the gravy train to freedom. That courage and sacrifice met their fate and proved that they were not chickens. ”

WASHINGTON, DC-NOVEMBER 21: U.S. President Donald Trump (C), first lady Melania Trump, their son Barron, National Turkey Federation Chairman Carl Wittenburg and his family and members of Draper County, Minnesota, 4-H chapater took a photo after Trump, Drumstick, pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the Rose Garden at the White House on November 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. Following the president’s pardon, the 40-pound White Holland breed that Wittenburg raised in Minnesota, will live in his new home, ‘Gobbler’s Rest,’ at Virginia Tech. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump marked his first turkey pardon in 2017, giving “Drumstick” and “Wishbone” a bright future. He also made jokes about Obama’s turkeys.

“The White House attorney’s office informed me that Tater and Tot’s pardon cannot be revoked at any time,” Trump said. said. “So, Tater and Tot, you can rest now.”

Trump did headlines in his first year at the White House for pushing conspiracy theories and false claims about his achievements.

WASHINGTON, DC-NOVEMBER 19: Accompanied by National Turkey Federation Chairman Phil Seger (L) and turkey grower Andrea Welp (C), US President Joe Biden participated in the 74th annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon of Peanut Butter at the Rose Garden of the White House November 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. The 2021 National Thanksgiving Turkey, Peanut Butter, and alternate, Jelly, will be raised in Jasper, Indiana and will reside on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, after today’s presentation. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden participated in the annual tradition on Friday, taking a moment to comment on the COVID-19 vaccine and the pandemic’s impact on Americans.

After forgiving “Peanut Butter” and “Jelly,” Biden suggested the birds were “chosen on their behavior, appearance, and I suspect vaccination status.”

He joked, “Yeah, instead of being basted these two turkeys were boosted.”

Additionally, Biden acknowledged the people who worked to fight the pandemic, and added, “From the Biden family to you, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving. And may God bless you all and may God protect our troops . ”

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