Turkey Pardons, The Stuffing of Historic Legend





Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for a little Thanksgiving tale. You think you've heard it before, but never quite like this.

Yes, it starts the same as it does every year.

Yesterday morning in the Rose Garden, surrounded by gourd-and-corn-husk decor best described as "harvest plenty," President Bush promised May the turkey that he would not be served with a side of yams on Thanksgiving. Nor would May's pal Flower.

These names were "certainly better than the names the vice president suggested, which was 'Lunch' and 'Dinner,' " the president joked.

Chuckles from the audience. Gulgulgulgulguls from the turkey. Such a happy day.

The Thanksgiving presidential turkey pardon. It's a tradition, major newspapers have reported for years, that began in 1947 with President Harry S. Truman -- a sentimental reprieve from the man who had thumbs-upped two atomic bombs.

"To paraphrase Harry today," Bush said, "you cannot take the heat -- and you're definitely going to stay out of the kitchen."

Americans gobbled up this annual parable of mercy.

But like any masterly misdirection, like a fake FEMA news conference, like a government-produced "news" segment, ah, the turkey pardonings are not what they seem....

The archivists at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., have tried to set the record straight. Right there on the Web site is the statement: "The Library's staff has found no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, or other contemporary records in our holdings which refer to Truman pardoning a turkey that he received as a gift in 1947, or at any other time during his Presidency."

What Truman was doing in the photo, say the archivists, was receiving a turkey, kicking off an annual tradition of presidents receiving turkeys from the National Turkey Federation....


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Alonzo Hamby - 11/26/2007

I'd like to see a president--any president, any party--come out with a hatchet, whack the bird's head off, watch him run around until he expires, then order the Secret Service to pick him up and take him to the White House kitchen. In other words, dispatch the creature just as our "founding fathers" and just about all our other fathers did it well into the twentieth century.

Now THAT would be a newsworthy re-creation of a great American tradition!

And of course the First Lady would supervise the gutting, plucking, and singeing of the turkey.

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