President Joe Biden Pardons Turkeys Named Peanut Butter and Jelly at White House Rose Garden

During the ceremony the president reflected on the meaning behind Thanksgiving and wished families a safe and healthy holiday

Following a routine colonoscopy on Friday morning, a cheerful President Joe Biden returned to the White House to pardon a pair of lucky birds during the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation.

"Today we're going to talk turkey," Biden said at the 74th anniversary of tradition, which takes place annually in the White House Rose Garden, with about 100 guests.

The 2021 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were raised near Jasper, Indiana. The birds are named Peanut Butter and Jelly and weigh 40 lbs. each.

"By the powers vested in me as the president of the United States, I pardon you," Biden told Peanut Butter, as the turkeys gobbled.

The turkeys were selected because of their "temperament, appearance and I suspect their vaccination status," the president, who turns 79 on Saturday, joked. "Instead of getting basted, they're getting boosted."

The turkeys, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday, had the opportunity to meet fans prior to heading to their room at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.

Turkey Pardon

Staff at the hotel have given the turkeys high-end service with a red-carpet welcome, a meal that included corn and soybeans, and good nights of rest on luxurious beds. The animals kept busy on Zoom calls ahead of Friday's big event.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Peanut Butter and Jelly, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and alternate, are shown to members of the press during a news conference held by the National Turkey Federation November 18, 2021 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. The two turkeys from Jasper, Indiana will be pardoned during by President Joe Biden during a Friday ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Drew Angerer/Getty

While two turkeys come to the nation's capital every year for the ceremony only one typically is pardoned. Biden was supposed to only pardon Peanut Butter but told Jelly he would also receive the honor.

"Folks, as I've said before, every American wants the same thing," the president said. "They want to be able to look the turkey in the eye and tell him everything's going to be okay."

Now Peanut Butter and Jelly are scheduled to return to Purdue University where they will both be cared for by students and staff within the Department of Animal Sciences.

The history of the turkey pardon dates back to 1863 and President Abraham Lincoln, according to White House history. George H. W. Bush was the first formally pardon a turkey in 1989 during a formal White House ceremony.

"It reminds us to have a little bit of fun," Biden said of the tradition, "and always be grateful."

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