Donald Trump Took A Swipe At Barack Obama During The Turkey Pardon & It Was Super Awkward

by Hannah Golden
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, the president made one of his most notable pardons of the year: to the Thanksgiving turkeys. But unlike the presidential ritual in most years, this year, Donald Trump's turkey pardon took a swipe at Barack Obama. This was this first time Trump has participated in the White House tradition.

At 1 p.m. ET, Trump, his wife, Melania, and son, Barron, stood in the White House Rose Garden before an audience that included two massive white birds, Wishbone and Drumstick, gifted as usual from the National Turkey Federation. The turkey pardoning ceremony, arguably one of America's weirdest traditions, dates back decades, marking a bit of good cheer from the White House before the national holiday.

Before pardoning this year's two turkeys, Trump announced that they would be joining last year's turkeys Tater and Tot, pardoned by Obama, in their long-term habitat at Gobbler's Rest on the Virginia Tech campus. Trump used the moment to make a joke about his predecessor Barack Obama.

"As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor," Trump said in his Rose Garden address. "However, I have been informed by the White House Council's office that Tater and Tot's pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked. So we're not gonna revoke them. So Tater and Tot, you can rest easy."

Trump also got a dig in at President Harry Truman, to whom the first National Turkey Federation bird was officially presented back in 1947. Truman, he said, "did not grant the pardon, he refused. He was a tough cookie," Trump said. "Today I'm going to be a much nicer president."

Though the president commemorated 2017 as the 70th anniversary of the turkey pardon, the first turkey "clemency" actually started back in 1863 with President Abraham Lincoln, according to the White House Historical Association. "'Pardoning' Thanksgiving turkeys at the White House can be traced back to President Lincoln, but the formal practice did not start until much later," the association tweeted. "In fact, the official turkey presentation (not the pardoning) to the president from the poultry industry only started in 1947."

The presidential turkey pardon is often a humor-filled event, and jokes are to be expected. In one year, Obama said during his turkey-pardoning address, "You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this, where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."

CBS News's Mark Knoller shared a photo on Twitter reliving some of the best jokes former presidents have made over the years.

And Trump has had his fair share of jokes coming his way about the turkey pardon, too. Twitter users and late-night hosts jumped on the comical tradition carried out by a rather unconventional leader.

On the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the host on Monday quipped about how the president might respond to Tuesday's ceremony. "I saw tomorrow, President Trump will pardon a turkey at the White House. Then he'll spend the next week criticizing it for not thanking him enough. 'I should have let you get eaten,'" he joked, imitating the president.

The Daily Show account shared a doctored photo of former national security director Mike Flynn in jest. With the administration and Trump campaign team in the hot seat after recent indictments per the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, the word "pardon" has been fresh on the mind.

Others pointed out that Trump's record of pardons already includes some controversial names after he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August.

At least, as Trump points out, there are two turkeys who can look forward to a bright future this year.