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Biden pardons turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly ahead of Thanksgiving

President Biden pardoned turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly on Friday afternoon in a ceremony at the White House. 

“It reminds us to have a little bit of fun, and to always be grateful,” Mr. Biden said Friday of the tradition. 

The president rattled off some jokes during the ceremony, as is tradition. He told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, that Peanut Butter and Jelly are the new power couple in town. He also made an infrastructure joke, after signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday. 

“Turkey is infrastructure. Peanut butter and Jelly are going to help build back the butterball,” he said. 

The White House released a video on Thursday introducing the birds, who stayed at Washington, D.C.’s posh Willard Hotel, as per tradition. Peanut Butter and Jelly both weigh about 40 pounds and were raised in Jasper, Indiana, said National Federation of Turkeys chair Phil Seger. Grower Andrea Welp said raising the turkeys for the presidential pardon was “a lot of fun.”

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“With another year of uncertainties with the pandemic, this project has really been something to look forward to,” Welp said Thursday at a press conference. 

The president joked Peanut Butter and Jelly were chosen on their temperament, appearance, and, he suspects, their vaccination status. 


National Turkey Federation

After they are spared, Peanut Butter and Jelly will head to the Animal Sciences Research and Education Farm at Purdue University in Indiana, where they will live out the rest of their days. 

This is Mr. Biden’s first turkey pardoning, a tradition with unclear origins, at the White House. It’s been rumored to date back to President Abraham Lincoln, whose son Tad begged him to pardon the turkey their family had planned to eat for Christmas, and he let the bird go. 

In 1963, shortly before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he decided to send back the turkey he received at the White House and said, “We’ll just let this one grow,” but he never formally pardoned it. Other presidents after Kennedy participated in photo-ops with turkeys, but not every year.

The tradition is usually credited to President Harry Truman, who did a photo-op with a turkey in 1947, but his presidential library said in 2003 that they had “found no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, or other contemporary records in our holdings which refer to Truman pardoning a turkey that he received as a gift in 1947, or at any other time during his presidency.” 

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Other presidents did photo-ops with turkeys, and the first official pardoning was held in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush. It became an annual tradition after that.

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