WASHINGTON – For seven years, President Barack Obama has made the turkey pardoning event something of a dad joke, saying it’s been a tradition to embarrass his daughters, Sasha and Malia. This year, he said, they had a scheduling conflict.

“Malia and Sasha, by the way, are thankful that this is my final turkey pardon,” joked Obama. “What I haven’t told them yet is that we are going to do this every year from now on. No way I’m cutting this habit cold turkey.”

Instead of his usual “trusty assistants” – the nickname he gave his daughters – Obama was joined by his two young nephews, Austin and Aaron Robinson, at the Rose Garden on Wednesday.


Video by Kelly Norris and Jason Mast/MNS

The 2016 Thanksgiving turkeys are named Tater and Tot, both males, 18-weeks-old and 40 pounds each. Both turkeys came to the nation’s capital by way of Iowa.

A Twitter poll conducted by the White House account selected Tot to be pardoned, leaving Tater as second-in-command – otherwise known as the “vice turkey,” Obama quipped, one of many jokes he cracked during the event.

“We’re working on getting him (Tater) a pair of aviator glasses,” Obama said, alluding to Vice President Joe Biden’s signature style.

Tater and Tot join a long line of presidential turkeys.

Since 1947, the chairman of the National Turkey Federation has presented a turkey to the President of the United States, who in later years would grant a pardon to the bird. The tradition of receiving a turkey at the White House dates back to at least President Harry Truman, but President George H. W. Bush was the first to issue a presidential pardon, sparing the bird from being eaten.

In 2009, President Obama expanded the act by pardoning not one but two turkeys, and he has done so in all of his eight years in office.

He also recognized the other turkeys who “didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom.”


Photos by Rishika Dugyala/MNS

A nostalgic Obama also noted his gratitude for the progress made during the years of his presidency, including low unemployment, rising wages, and an improving housing market. On a serious note, he also thanked the American people for placing their trust in him, reminding Americans that “We have a lot more in common than divides us.”

According to a new CNN/ORC national poll released Wednesday, Obama’s approval rating post-election is at 57 percent, the highest it’s been since September 2009.

The turkeys, meanwhile, will be cared for by veterinarians and students of Virginia Tech University’s Animal and Poultry Sciences Department. Their new home – dubbed the “Gobbler’s Rest” – is in Blacksburg, Virginia.