Biden pardons turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving to bookend a flurry of news developments

Peanut Butter and Jelly are latest birds to benefit from presidential clemency

Eric Garcia
Friday 19 November 2021 23:13
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Joe Biden pardons turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly in first presidential Thanksgiving ceremony
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President Joe Biden partook in a longstanding national tradition when he pardoned two turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving to bookend a day where news developments inundated his administration.

The president pardoned two birds named Peanut Butter and Jelly in a joke-and-pun-filled speech that is part of a tradition that goes back to Harry Truman and was formalised during George HW Bush’s presidency.

“I have to admit to you, my wife doesn’t like me to admit it, that’s what I like for lunch, peanut butter and jelly,” he said. Mr Biden said that the two turkeys were selected for their temperament, appearance and, jokingly, vaccination status.

“Yes, instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted,” he said during the annual pre-Thanksgiving event.

The president mentioned how farmers were selected by the National Turkey Federation to raise “the presidential flock,” a group of 20 turkeys that vie to be pardoned by the president.

“In other words, the turkey presidential primary,” Mr Biden told a crowd at the White House, a joking reference to the large number of candidates who challenged Mr Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr Biden said that the two turkeys will live out the rest of their days at Purdue University near a train called “the Boilermaker Special.”

Trains were a major part of the president’s focus this week when, on Monday, he finally signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August and went through the House earlier this month. The legislation has money for rail projects throughout the nation.

“Folks, turkey is infrastructure,” the president joked at the pardoning.

On Friday, House Democrats also passed the second major part of his domestic agenda: a $1.75 trillion social spending bill known as the Build Back Better Act. The bill includes an expanded child tax credit, universal preschool, universal child care, provisions to combat climate change, hearing benefits for Medicare and additional funding for home care for elderly people and people with disabilities.

“Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help build back the Butterball,” he said in reference to the popular turkey brand.

That came after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy delivered a meandering speech for more than eight hours on Thursday night to delay the vote.

But just as Democrats were celebrating the vote, Mr Biden underwent a colonoscopy, briefly handing power over to Vice President Kamala Harris, and thereby making her the first woman to hold presidential power until he resumed his presidential duties.

Mr Biden also referenced this during his pardon, noting that is why he would pardon two turkeys instead of one.

“This first one who’s going to be pardoned is Peanut Butter, who should be able to uphold his duties,” Mr Biden said. “And in case that changes, I’m going to also pardon his alternative Jelly. Folks, as I’ve said before, every American wants the same thing: They want to be able to look their turkey in the eye and tell them, everything’s gonna be ok.”

At the same time, just before the turkey pardon, a court in Wisconsin found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of all five counts of his homicide trial, including two charges of first-degree homicide for shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as shooting Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived. Mr Rittenhouse had travelled to Kenosha, Wisconsin during anti-police brutality protests after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Mr Biden had previously come under criticism for seeming to imply Mr Rittenhouse was a white supremacist by showing a picture of Mr Rittenhouse holding an AR-15 rifle as part of a series of scenes excoriating then-president Donald Trump for not condemning white supremacists.

Reporters asked Mr Biden about whether he stood by implying Mr Rittenhouse was a white supremacist.

“Well, look, I stand by what the jury has concluded,” he said. “The jury system works, and we have to abide by it.”

Shortly thereafter, he released a longer statement urging demonstrators not to resort to violence.

“I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law,” he said. “Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”

Moments later, the president went to the Rose Garden for the pardoning ceremony and noted the importance of people seeing loved ones this Thanksgiving.

“So many of us will be gathering with our loved ones for the first time,” he said. “And we’ll be reconnecting with traditions with our tables and our hearts full of grace and gratitude for everyone who made it possible.”

Mr Biden added that he and First Lady Jill Biden would travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for an early Thanksgiving with members of the US Military and their families.

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