Biden pardons Thanksgiving turkeys ‘Liberty’ and ‘Bell’ on his birthday

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) – President Joe Biden celebrated his 81st birthday Monday by granting clemency to a pair of turkeys hailing from Minnesota in a ceremony at the White House.

“That’s a big bird, man, I’m impressed,” Biden said from the South Lawn. “I hereby pardon Liberty and Bell.”

The two lucky birds — Liberty, a 42.5-pound turkey, and Bell, weighing in at 42.1 pounds — were hatched in July in Willmar, Minnesota.

“Even though Liberty and Bell are from Minnesota, they are named for the famous ‘Liberty Bell’ in Philadelphia,” Biden said. “These birds have a new appreciation of the words, ‘Let Freedom Ring.’”

Apart from fluffing their enormous plumage while the president spoke, the turkeys were generally well-behaved during the ceremony.

Liberty and Bell will live out their days at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences.

The tradition began in 1947 when the National Turkey Federation presented a live turkey to President Harry Truman. However, Truman is erroneously credited with starting the annual custom of pardoning the turkey; according to the Truman Library, his birds had a different fate.

In fact, “Truman sometimes indicated to reporters that the turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table.”

It was President George H.W. Bush who established the formalities of pardoning a turkey when he took office in 1989. As part of a pre-Thanksgiving ceremony, Bush quipped, “Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy. He’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”

It has been an annual tradition ever since.

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