White House Does Hunger Games With Turkeys: Which One Should President Obama Pardon?
May the odds be ever in your favor, turkeys. Each year before Thanksgiving, the president pardons a turkey in the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. Now, thanks to social media, we can personally get to know these little gobblers and decide which one gets the esteemed pardon, Hunger Games -style. This year, the White House has set up a battle royale between turkeys Caramel and Popcorn. The official website for “The Gobble” — really, that’s the best you could come up with? — tells us that Caramel’s favorite food is soybean meal and his favorite song is “Bad Romance,” while Popcorn enjoys eating corn and listening to “Halo” by Beyoncé. They're setting up Caramel for a loss, really.
You can even listen to their respective voices on the site — and Popcorn’s gluck-gluck is a full 8 seconds longer than Caramel’s. What could Popcorn be telling us? The fate of the world? The meaning of life? That he hates us all and we should be ashamed of ourselves for this mockery? Sigh. Such a hard one to read, that Popcorn. So mysterious.
After getting to know the turkeys a bit better, users are free to post or Tweet their choice to Facebook or Twitter.
Yeah, it’s really stupid.
But it’s not all fun and games either. The history of the annual turkey pardon has a surprisingly dark side.
The pardoned turkeys will probably die soon
Sorry, little buddies, but you may have to travel on to that mystical land of flowing grain and grass in the sky soon. You see, the White House has a pretty bad record with keeping their pardoned turkeys alive. Because the turkeys are so plump, they have lots of health problems after they are transported to Mount Vernon for the rest of their oft-short-lived existence. In fact, all of the turkeys that President Obama has pardoned have already died, including last year's pair, Gobbler and Cobbler.
Caramel and Popcorn listened to a lot of John Mayer
The big birds' owner, John Burkel, from Badger, Minn., says he played a lot of music, including John Mayer and Vivaldi, for the birds, to prep them for their time in the spotlight. He also let screaming schoolchildren visit their special cottage to prepare them for the noise of their adoring fans on the big day. When they arrived in D.C., they shacked up at the swanky Willard Hotel, where rooms go for $200 to $3,500 per night. Yes, a freakin' bird is living it up better than you are right now.
JFK didn’t actually pardon his turkey; he just thought it wasn’t big enough to eat
Rumor has it that President John F. Kennedy was the first to pardon a turkey. Um, nope: he actually just wanted it to be bigger and more succulent. "We'll let this one grow," he reportedly said when presented with the turkey.
President Reagan was actually the first to officially pardon a turkey — but it was meant to be a distraction from dealing with the actual pardons of people connected to the Iran-Contra Affair. President George H. W. Bush made it an annual tradition in 1989. The thing is, no one really knows why he did it. Bush Library archivists thought President Truman started it back in 1947, but that's only when he began the tradition of receiving a bird — to eat — from the National Turkey Foundation.
The first pardoned birds lived at a questionably-named farm
They were set free to Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, Va., to live out the rest of their short lives. (The name alone must've make the turkeys more than a little nervous.) Other turkeys have been sent to Disneyland or Disney World to serve as the grand marshal of the holiday parades there. (Lucky.) Caramel and Popcorn will be sent to Morven Park in Virginia.
Obama has pardoned more turkeys than people during some years
In 2009 and 2012, President Obama did not grant any presidential pardons to actual people, but those two turkeys were granted pardons. Last year, his pardon ratio was 1 in 290, while this year, it rose to 1 in 35. Obama has pardoned only 40 people, a record low. By the sixth year of Truman's presidency, he had pardoned 1,537 people, while Nixon had pardoned 923 people.
The first female turkey wasn't pardoned until 2002
No offense, Caramel and Popcorn, but you full-feathered fowl don’t hold a candle to our favorite turkey of all time: South Park’s Gobbles. That special little cartoon turkey who couldn’t even hold up his own head managed overcome the odds, evading death and making a little boy very happy. Now that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.