After briefly transferring the power of the presidency to Vice President Kamala Harris as he underwent a routine colonoscopy, President Biden returned to the White House on Friday to exercise a traditional Oval Office duty: He pardoned a turkey.
Actually two of them. The turkeys, named Peanut Butter and Jelly, were pardoned in a formal ceremony in the Rose Garden.
“I'm honored to welcome you to a Thanksgiving tradition at the White House that reminds us to have a little fun and always be grateful,” Biden said. "Today we're going to talk turkey."
The event marked the 74th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. Peanut Butter was officially named National Thanksgiving Turkey on Thursday. Jelly was named alternate.
The president joked that the birds were selected from a flock of 20 based on their "temperament, appearance and, I suspect, vaccination status.
"Yes, instead of getting basted, these turkeys are getting boosted," Biden said.
After their trip to Washington, D.C., which included an overnight stay at the luxury Willard InterContinental Hotel, the turkeys will be transported to Purdue University's Animal Science Research and Education Center, where they will live out the rest of their days in “a separate enclosed indoor setting with access to a shaded grassy area,” according to a press release from the school.
The 40-pound male birds from Farbest Farms in Jasper, Ind., were born in July. The average lifespan of a domestic turkey is about 10 years.
“In all seriousness, it's important to continue traditions like this,” Biden added. “To remind us from darkness there's light, from hope there is progress.”
The first president to pardon a turkey was Abraham Lincoln, who instructed the White House to save a bird given to him because his son had grown fond of it.
The pardoning tradition dates back to 1963, when the Washington Post reported that President John F. Kennedy gave a “pardon” and “reprieve” to the Thanksgiving turkey, which has been presented at the White House by the National Turkey Federation since 1947, when Harry Truman was in office. President George H.W. Bush formalized the custom in 1989.