Let’s talk turkey about presidential pardons

On the news this past week was the clip of President Bush issuing an official pardon to the presidential turkey during a photo op at the White House.

Wishing to know a little more about the presidential pardons offered these birds, and how long it had been going on, I booted up my computer and Googled the phrase, ‘presidential turkey.’

Among the top four choices was a news story about ‘Biscuits,’ the 2007 presidential bird, whose pardon made headline news.

This story was posted on the official White House press release Web site, and told that ‘Biscuits,’ along with first runner-up, ‘Gravy,’ were both given pardons.

After having their pictures taken, the turkeys, raised by the Kevin Foltz family of Mathias, W. Va., and presented to the White House by the National Turkey Foundation, were taken to Kidwell Farm in Herndon, Va.

Here, they will live out their short lives in ‘Frying Pan Park,’ a petting zoo that is part of a re-creation of a 1920- to 1940-era farm. ‘Biscuits’ and ‘Gravy’ join other pardoned birds from past years.

The press release also told that the custom of pardoning the presidential turkeys dated back 50 years to Harry S. Truman.

That bit of information surprised me, because I thought it was a more recent tradition.

The researcher in me just had to check it out. The Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo., also has an Internet Web site. According to them, and they should know, if anyone does, it never happened.

No documents, news clippings, photos or other contemporary records referring to a pardon have been found. Back in Trumans day, it was more customary to present a turkey to the White House at Christmas.

Did you know that Ramsey has a connection to presidential turkeys?

Minor Buckingham, a Ramsey native, received a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in October 1933, saying that he could have the honor of supplying the first family with a Thanksgiving turkey that year.

Roosevelt didnt pardon the Buckingham turkey. Truman didnt pardon his Christmas turkey, either. Eisenhower, Ford, Nixon and Carter all ate with great gusto the turkey offered up by the National Turkey Foundation.

In 1963, shortly before his death, President Kennedy said he wasnt going to eat the turkey presented to the White House. The press reported that he had given it a pardon.

In 1987, when the Iran Contra scandal was the talk of the land, Ronald Reagan pardoned ‘Charlie’ the turkey, already headed for a petting zoo. There would be more talk of pardons before the hearings ended.

According to my research on the Internet, the first president to officially pardon a turkey was George H. W. Bush in 1989.

I can see Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show’ having a field day with this one.

The official White House Web site states that the custom dates back more than 50 years to Harry Truman, when actually it was President Bushs father who started the whole official pardon thing.

If I can learn the truth about an innocuous happening, such the pardoning of a presidential turkey, why then does the White House press office publish such nonsense?

If they cant tell the truth about a simple thing, such as pardoning a turkey, what can we expect with bigger matters such as IraqWMDthe FISA court…Internet spying9-11outing a CIA agentsecret jailsuse of torture?

Leave a Comment