Turkey Pardon [#45]
Every year, the president pardons a Turkey for Thanksgiving. The bird is donated by the National Turkey Federation, an unofficial sponsor of this modern-day tradition. The origins of this pardoning varies but it officially started with George H. W. Bush, in response to the protests of animal rights activists (Lincoln, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan spared turkeys on their own, without making it an annual tradition). But the tradition has often been called a mockery: most pardoned turkeys die within a year of being granted a reprieve anyway. The turkey pardon has also been used as a way to divert the press from scandal:
Ronald Reagan in 1987 was technically the first president to use the word “pardon” about a turkey, but it was really just a way to deflect questions about the Iran-Contra scandal and whether he would pardon key players involved — Oliver North and John Poindexter. The bird, “Charlie,” was already headed for a petting zoo, but after Sam Donaldson of ABC News pressed Reagan on whether he’d pardon North and Poindexter, Reagan responded, “If they’d given me a different answer on Charlie and his future, I would have pardoned him.”
Hardly anything escapes from politics in this city, included our beloved holidays.
Happy Thanksgiving y’all!