On November 24, 2020, President Donald Trump exercised his executive powers for a beloved Thanksgiving tradition — the turkey pardon. The gorgeous toms, dubbed "Corn" and "Cob," were raised at an Iowa family farm owned by National Turkey Federation Chairman Ron Kardel, a 6th generation turkey, corn, and soybean farmer. The lucky birds will spend the rest of their days under the watchful eyes of animal science students at Iowa State University.
"These two magnificent gobblers were selected from the official presidential flock of 30 turkeys — some real beauties," President Trump said. "Corn, I hereby grant you a full pardon." While Cob, who served as a backup in case Corn was unable to fulfill his duties, did not receive the "official" pardon, he was also spared.
According to the White House, the turkeys, both born on July 2, 2020, have very different personalities. Corn, who weighs 42 pounds with a 35-inch wingspan, is extremely social and loves to watch college football and chase storms. His favorite snack, as you may have already guessed, is corn! The 41-pound Cob, who boasts a 34-inch wingspan, is more cerebral and enjoys watching pickleball and solving puzzles.
The gobblers came to Washington, DC, a day earlier, on November 23, 2020, and were transported to the Willard Intercontinental in a chauffeured car. Upon arrival, the duo regally strutted on a red carpet to the hotel's entrance, before being escorted to their luxurious suite for a good night's rest.
The following day, after posing for photographs at a press conference, Corn and Cob made their way to the White House Rose Garden for the official pardoning ceremony. Ending days of speculation, President Trump announced that Corn had won the public vote for "National Thanksgiving Turkey" and would be the one receiving the presidential pardon. The announcement did not seem to upset Cob, who was happy to enjoy the festivities without being in the limelight.
The president pardoning turkeys on Thanksgiving is a tradition that goes back decades. Historians had initially attributed it to President Harry Truman. However, that notion was dismissed by the Truman Library staff in 2003, due to a lack of evidence.
While President John F. Kennedy did free a turkey on Thanksgiving in 1963, he did not refer to it as a pardon. The event, however, was reported by the Los Angeles Times as a "Presidential pardon." In 1987, President Ronald Reagan mentioned "pardon" when saving a turkey gifted to him by the National Turkey Federation. But he was merely trying to deflect a question about a serious political matter.
Turkey pardoning was finally formalized by George H.W. Bush, during his first year as president. "Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy," he said in 1989. "He's granted a presidential pardon as of right now — and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here."
Since then, the event has become an annual White House ritual, one that is attended by family members, government officials, and the news media. In 2012, President Barack Obama added a fun twist by allowing residents to vote for "America's Next Top Turkey" on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
We wish Corn and Cob a long and happy retirement. As for the rest of the turkeys? All we can say is "Gobble Gobble!"