‘No Fowl Play’: Biden Pardons a Pair of Thanksgiving Turkeys

WASHINGTON — Two lucky turkeys, named Chocolate and Chip, were spared their lives on Monday, but not from hearing about President Biden’s favorite subject of late: the Democrats’ stronger-than-expected showing in the midterm elections.

“The votes are in. They’ve been counted and verified. There’s no ballot stuffing, there’s no fowl play,” Mr. Biden said at the traditional pre-Thanksgiving turkey pardon at the White House, which is never complete without a string of holiday-themed puns.

The only “red wave” this holiday season, Mr. Biden said, would be if his German shepherd “knocks over the cranberry sauce on our table.” (The dog, Commander, oversaw the South Lawn event from the White House balcony.)

The turkey pardon ceremony was a break from weeks of campaigning in the United States and international diplomacy overseas. But in a sign of where national attention may be shifting, Mr. Biden suggested that the turkeys have a bit in common with the 2024 presidential hopefuls.

“They interacted with children to show their softer side,” Mr. Biden said as he described the turkeys’ preparation for the White House visit, which included listening to loud music in recent days to acclimate them to the noisy audience at Monday’s event. “Sounds like another flock hoping to come to Washington in 2024.”

Even with his approval ratings still low and a potential strike of railroad workers on the horizon, the president seemed at ease as he engaged directly with 46-pound Chocolate and 47-pound Chip, both of North Carolina.

“Chocolate is my favorite ice cream, but we could’ve named them chips and science,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion investment in American chip manufacturing that Mr. Biden signed into law this year.

Presidents have provided freedom to turkeys since the Kennedy era, although the pardons only became a consistent practice when President George H.W. Bush formalized the process.

The animals were placed on a table next to Mr. Biden’s lectern on Monday to receive their presidential pardons.

“Chocolate, you are pardoned. You are pardoned,” Mr. Biden said to the gobbling turkey. “Yeah, you are. Yeah. I’m serious.”

“He said: ‘I don’t know, man. You didn’t have to pardon me. I knew I was pardoned,’” Mr. Biden translated, prompting laughs in the crowd.

Both turkeys will live out their days on the campus of North Carolina State University.

“When we told them they were joining the Wolfpack, they got a little scared,” Mr. Biden said, before adding that it was just the name of the school’s sports teams.

Still, as winter looms, Mr. Biden is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year, when just after celebrating Thanksgiving in Nantucket, Mass., his administration put new travel restrictions in place to contain the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“Two years ago, we couldn’t even safely have Thanksgiving with a large family gatherings,” Mr. Biden said. “We have new Covid vaccine updates to deal with new variants to protect you and your loved ones, so get it today.”

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