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President Biden pardons turkeys, Peanut Butter and Jelly, ahead of Thanksgiving

The two national Thanksgiving turkeys are seen in the Rose Garden of the White House before a pardon ceremony in Washington on Nov. 19, 2021.
The two national Thanksgiving turkeys are seen in the Rose Garden of the White House before a pardon ceremony in Washington on Nov. 19, 2021.

Peanut Butter and Jelly won't be at the Thanksgiving table this year.

That is: two national turkeys, named Peanut Butter and Jelly, have been given a presidential pardon.

"With the power vested in me, I pardon you," President Biden said to Peanut Butter at a White House ceremony Friday.

After he spared Peanut Butter from becoming dinner, Biden encouraged the turkey to share his thoughts: "Go ahead, say something."

"Gobble, gobble," Peanut Butter replied.

He also pardoned Jelly. "I pardon you, kid," the president said.

The names of the male turkeys, who were raised in Jasper, Ind., were revealed by the White House on Twitter, with glamorous close-up shots of the birds in a luxury room at Willard Hotel. They were from a list of names submitted by schoolchildren.

"I have to admit to you, my wife doesn't like me to admit it: that's what I like for lunch, peanut butter and jelly," Biden told an audience at the White House's Rose Garden.

Both turkeys will be taken back to Indiana to Purdue University's Animal Sciences Research and Education Farm "to live out the remainder of their lives," said National Turkey Federation Chairman Phil Seger.

Biden pardoned the turkeys after a routine colonoscopy. He went under anesthesia for the procedure, transferring presidential authority briefly to Vice President Harris.

Biden and the first lady will travel to North Carolina next week to celebrate Thanksgiving with Fort Bragg military families.

The White House has a history of ruffling feathers

There is confusion surrounding the origin of presidential turkey pardoning; even Bill Clinton mistakenly said that Truman was the first to pardon a turkey. The Truman Library had to issue a statement stating otherwise.

President George Bush and Shannon Duffy, 8, of Fairfax, Va., look over a Thanksgiving turkey presented to the president at the White House in Washington by the National Turkey Foundation, on Nov. 18, 1989.
Marcy Nighswander / AP
President George Bush and Shannon Duffy, 8, of Fairfax, Va., look over a Thanksgiving turkey presented to the president at the White House in Washington by the National Turkey Foundation, on Nov. 18, 1989.

John F. Kennedy appears to be the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey, saying "We'll just let this one grow." George H.W. Bush formalized the turkey pardoning event in 1989.

In past years, the pardoned turkeys have been named Corn and Cob; Bread and Butter; Honest and Abe; Tater and Tot. Former President Obama even made the annual occasion a chance to showcase his dad jokes.

"Time flies, even if turkeys don't," Obama said at the 2014 turkey pardon.

Tien Le is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.