Barack Obama took a jab at Congress during the official turkey pardon, joking about actions "that don't require congressional approval."
With his daughters Malia and Sasha looking on, and a Thanksgiving bird named Liberty shifting nervously, the president declared:
“Some of you may know that recently I have recently been taking a series of executive actions that don't require congressional approval — well, here's another one. We can't wait to pardon these turkeys. Otherwise they'd end up next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing."
USA Today reported that Obama — "putting aside his battles with Congress over the jobs bill and other matters" — smiled and cracked jokes to the White House press corps, telling them that the turkey had been prepared for the flashes and loud noise.
The turkey had also had media training in "how to gobble without really saying anything," Obama added.
He called Thanksgiving "one of the best days of the year to be an American — it's a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love and enjoy some good food and some great company."
Many credit President Harry S. Truman with starting the tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving Turkey in 1947.
However, according to the White House Historical Association:
It is often stated that President Lincoln’s clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks was the origin for the pardoning ceremony.
The Association points out that "even the Truman Library & Museum disputes the notion that Truman was the first president to pardon the holiday bird."
Reports of turkeys as gifts to American presidents can be traced to the 1870s, when Rhode Island poultry dealer Horace Vose began sending well fed birds to the White House.