They Get a Presidential Pardon,
But What Happens Then?
Commentary By John Stossel
Nov. 21 ‹ It has become a tradition for the president to
pardon a turkey or two at Thanksgiving and announce that they will live
out their days on a petting farm. Why would anyone say "Give me a
break!" to that?
Because it's kind of a hoax. I went to the farm where
birds pardoned by presidents go, and I learned that this is not a story
with a happy ending.
Harry Truman started the tradition in 1947. President
Eisenhower pardoned turkeys at the White House, as did Kennedy, Johnson,
Nixon and Reagan. George Bush Sr. pardoned four turkeys in the course of
his presidency. Bill Clinton pardoned eight.
The younger President Bush continued the tradition this
week. At a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, he pardoned a
55-pound turkey named Liberty, as well as Liberty's backup, a turkey
named Freedom. In a reference to Vice President Dick Cheney's low public
profile since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush assured reporters
that Freedom was "in a secure and undisclosed location."
Bush made this promise to the two turkeys: "They will
live out their days in the comfort and care of Kidwell Farm in Herndon,
Living out their days in comfort and care. It's a nice
idea. It feels good. People like the idea that some birds are being
But are they really being saved?
A Turkey Pen With No Turkeys
I visited Kidwell Farm to see how the turkeys pardoned
in previous years were doing. I looked for some of the birds pardoned by
Clinton, but couldn't find them. I couldn't find the Bush Sr. birds, or
the Reagan turkeys, or Carter's, or any of the pardoned birds.
There is a sign saying Turkey Pen, and farmer Marlo
Acock took me to it. But the pen was empty. Why? Well, the birds do come
here, explained Acock, but they don't last.
"We usually just find 'em and they're dead," he said.
Most of the pardoned turkeys only last a few months,
Acock said. One died within days.
It seems that the presidential birds, bred to be eaten,
are so fat that by the time of their pardon, their days are numbered.
"Their flesh has grown so fast, and their heart and
their bones and their other organs can't catch up," said Acock.
Still, presidents keep going through the ritual.
"This will not be their last Thanksgiving," Bush assured
the children watching him pardon the two turkeys this week.
Does this mean even the president doesn't know their
Pardoning turkeys is good fun, but shouldn't
institutions as powerful as governments be telling the people the truth?
Give me a break!
Go on to Job
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