WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys, saying that the white male birds were selected based on their “temperament, appearance and, I suspect, vaccination status.”
“Instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted today,” Biden joked.
Biden was in a jovial mood when he appeared before White House staffers and their families in the Rose Garden to pardon the Indiana turkeys, who gobbled merrily throughout the event. And while they were given a reprieve from the fate met by millions of turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, Biden said their names — Peanut Butter and Jelly — reminded him of the sandwich he often enjoys for lunch.
The pardoning comes as Biden’s agenda has seen fresh signs of life, with the president signing his $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday and the House passing an even bigger companion bill — the $2 trillion social services and climate change bill — on Friday. That bill will have to make it through the 50-50 Senate before landing on Biden’s desk.
On Friday, Biden poked fun at his recent speeches on the infrastructure bill, declaring that “turkey is infrastructure” and that “Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help build back the butterball as we move along,” a reference to his administration’s “Build Back Better” catchphrase.
“I’ve said before, every American wants the same thing: You want to be able to look the turkey in the eye and tell them, it’s gonna be okay,” he joked.
And he said that the two birds were now “Indiana’s power couple” — with apologies to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, who are from Indiana.
This year’s turkeys spent a busy few days in Washington, appearing before the media alongside members of Indiana’s congressional delegation before retiring to a suite at the luxurious Willard Hotel.
They’ll have a comfortable new home, too. Duly pardoned, the turkeys are now heading to Purdue University’s Animal Science Research and Education Center, where they’ll spend the rest of their days in an enclosed setting with access to a shaded grassy area, according to Purdue.
The turkey pardon is traditionally an opportunity for presidents to crack jokes — often at their own expense — and usher in the holiday season.
In 2019, President Donald Trump joked about his impeachment inquiry, telling attendees that the turkeys “have already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement,” a reference to the congressman leading the investigation. And President Barack Obama riffed in 2014 about taking action “fully within my legal authority” to pardon the turkeys, a knock at Republicans who had criticized him for signing a raft of executive orders.
Presidents have pardoned turkeys since Abraham Lincoln, but President George H. W. Bush made the pardon the American tradition it is today by sparing a 50-pound bird in 1989.