The annual event typically serves as a light-hearted reprieve from the partisan rancor of Washington, with the president delivering remarks stuffed with bad puns and concluding with a playful pardon of a turkey.
The president again ignored reporters’ questions at Tuesday’s event about whether he will concede, whether he plans to make another White House run in 2024 and if he plans to pardon himself. Earlier in the day, the president made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room, where he delivered remarks for just over a minute to tout the stock market and vaccine progress before promptly departing without taking questions.
In the first major sign of the president accepting the reality of his defeat, the Trump administration on Monday formally recognized the Biden transition, freeing up government resources and outgoing and incoming teams to coordinate. The president subsequently tweeted that the cooperation did not amount to a concession.
Despite the president’s relatively quiet public presence since the election — most days, he has had nothing on his public schedule, and he has spent his weekends golfing — he made an exception for the annual turkey-pardoning tradition.
The president cracked fewer jokes than he has in years’ past as he announced that that a turkey named Corn would be this year’s National Thanksgiving Turkey. Corn, along with its alternate Cob, hail from an Iowa farm.
‘Like so many presidential flocks, this one started in the great state of Iowa in what can only have been described as an act of blatant pandering. And by the way, I love the state of Iowa,” Trump said, to the laughter of the audience.
“Corn, I hereby grant you a full pardon,” Trump said, holding up his hand. “Thank you, Corn.”
Corn was selected this year’s winner through an online poll conducted by the White House. Corn emerged the champion with a nearly eight-point lead on Cob.
As the president now contests the results of his own election loss, a joke he made during the 2018 turkey pardon has taken on new meaning. At the time, the president joked that the losing turkey, Carrots, was refusing to concede defeat and was contesting the election results.
“The winner of this vote was decided by a fair and open election conducted on the White House website. This was a fair election,” the president joked, prompting laughter. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.”
“I will tell you, we’ve come to a conclusion: Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change. It’s too bad for Carrots,” the president joked.
But while only one turkey wins the official title of National Thanksgiving Turkey each year, the reality is that neither turkey will lose its life as a result of the White House ceremony.
The lucky birds typically go to Virginia Tech University, where they live out the remainder of their natural lives at a facility known as “Gobbler’s Rest.”
This year, Trump said, the turkeys will head to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where veterinarians would care for them and members of the public could meet them.
The tradition of the president pardoning a turkey can be traced back as far as President Abraham Lincoln, who spared a turkey from becoming the family’s Christmas meal at the intervention of his son.
But the tradition of the formal turkey pardoning, as we know it today, didn’t start in earnest until President George H.W. Bush in 1989, who jokingly passed down a pardon to the turkey presented to him as animal rights activists protested nearby, according to the White House Historical Association.