The Annual Pardon of Turkeys Is a Relic of the Swamp and Must Go

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Today, President Donald Trump will take part in an annual Thanksgiving event, pardoning a turkey and sending it off to live a rich, full life. The practice of officially receiving a turkey at thanksgiving originated under President Harry Truman, though it wasn’t until George H.W. Bush formally pardoned a turkey that the tradition as it is celebrated today really began.

This year, the turkeys that will be presented to Trump are named Corn and Cob. Their official bios were presented yesterday by the official White House Twitter account:

However, there could be political ramifications for pardoning either turkey.

The turkey known as “Corn” appeared in the Mueller report four times, CNN reports. Sources say the Southern District of New York is investigating financial ties between President Donald Trump, Corn, and a Russian oligarch. The other criminal turkey, “Cob”, spent the last two-and-a-half years as an unregistered foreign lobbyist before the FBI arrested him. He previously worked for the Trump administration as a mid-level adviser.

These two are not the only problematic turkeys, according to critics. The history of the practice is littered with unspoken scandals and proof that there may well be a Swamp in Washington D.C. after all.

Turkey Pardon
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Back in 2016, then-President Barack Obama pardoned both Tater and Tot. “Tater” was deported more than once and arrested at the southern border on drug trafficking charges. Despite this, the Obama administration declined to prosecute and eventually pardoned him of lesser crimes.

Meanwhile, “Tot” was a known ISIS sympathizer and posted on various Internet boards calling for the deaths of multiple Fortune 500 CEOs. Despite being arrested for the threats, Obama pardoned him “in the spirit of forgiveness.”

In 2015, Obama pardoned both “Honest” and “Abe”, despite their then-recently discovered ties to Edward Snowden.

George W. Bush, meanwhile, quietly pardoned both “Liberty” and “Freedom” in 2001, despite alleged ties to $2.3 trillion in unaccounted-for federal government transactions announced the day before the 9/11 terror attacks. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. Bush also pardoned “Pumpkin” in 2008, his last year in office. The bird was officially the “Vice Turkey,” as the number one choice, “Pecan” fell ill from a suspected ricin attack the night before. Pumpkin’s involvement was never proven, but Pecan survived and was also pardoned.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton pardoned “Jerry the Turkey.” Jerry was originally the backup but the turkey ahead of him, Terry, was found dead of apparent suicide shortly before he was to be taken in by the FBI to testify about allegations against the Clinton Foundation.

Pardons officially started with Ronald Reagan, but the practice of sparing the birds dates back earlier than that. Just three days before his assassination, President Kennedy sent one back to its farm saying “We’ll let this one grow.” It proved to be a fatal mistake. Richard Nixon also spared multiple turkeys. However, one such turkey was never actually returned. It is said that a faint “gobble” can be heard among the faint buzz of the missing 18 1/2 minutes from the Nixon tapes.

Dwight Eisenhower never let any bird go free and, in fact, developed the interstate system in order to ship the birds more efficiently to the White House.

America’s fixation with the large fowl began in the nation’s infancy when Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey be the national bird. While the young nation’s leaders went the more sensible route of choosing the eagle, the turkey stayed forever in the back of the collective mind of America. It is the symbol of our greatest holiday, and it is far more prolific than the eagle.

However, while Corn and Cob spent their days in the lap of luxury ahead of their presumed pardon, their pardons will just be another in a long line of corrupt abuses of executive power. As Americans gather in protest this Thursday, perhaps one of the things they will push back on is the continued pardoning of these birds.