WASHINGTON D.C. (The Hill) — In a nod to swing state Pennsylvania, turkeys Liberty and Bell have received the White House’s annual turkey pardoning, continuing a decades-long tradition in the nation’s capital.
Liberty and Bell made their debut Sunday at a news conference with the National Turkey Federation at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington. The lucky birds hail from Willmar, Minn., and were hatched as part of the “Presidential Flock” back in July.
During Sunday’s unveiling, Steve Lykken, Jennie-O Turkey Store president and National Turkey Federation chairman, pointed to the importance of turkey farmers’ work and his excitement for the event.
“This event certainly for us, is an opportunity to recognize the really hard work of turkey farmers and men and women throughout animal agriculture and the turkey industry, and this is no exception,” Lykken said.
The annual “pardoning” of White House turkeys officially began 76 years ago in 1947 under former President Truman, according to the White House. Many, however, have said former President Lincoln’s clemency to a turkey in 1863 was the origin of the pardoning ceremony, though the White House said this is “likely apocryphal.”
The National Turkey Federation chairman designates a home state turkey farmer to raise the Presidential Flock and National Thanksgiving Turkey, where the turkeys are raised in very similar conditions as all turkeys available for consumers. The birds are protected from weather extremes and predators in a barn and can walk around freely with access to water and feed mix, according to the National Turkey Federation.
The turkeys are also gradually introduced to crowds, camera lights and loud noises in preparation for the annual White House pardoning ceremony.
Part of this preparation is listening to music, with Lykken telling reporters the turkeys are “Swifties,” in reference to singer Taylor Swift, and that “they do enjoy some Prince.”
The turkey’s names are an apparent reference to Pennsylvania, where the historic Liberty Bell is located and where first lady Jill Biden grew up. President Biden’s 2020 campaign was also headquartered in Philadelphia.
Lykken presented the turkeys to Biden on Monday, just days ahead of Thanksgiving.
Upon the birds’ departure from D.C., the turkeys will be brought and housed at the University of Minnesota, Lykken said.