turkeys of history

White House Turkeys: A Children’s Treasury of Dumb T-Day Tradition

Happy Poultry Lobbyist Day, Harry!On this Thanksgiving Eve, we want to remind Americans that all presidents have always looked like twits during the annual Turkey Pardon Photo Op — of course Barack Obama looked like an idiot pretending to care about that dumb bird headed to Disneyland, in 2010. And he surely looked like a sell-out fool this year, too, although we didn’t bother to watch. (This is exactly why Obama seems so bored dealing with unemployed/destroyed people; he thinks they are turkeys, too.) Anyway, here’s Harry Truman, reportedly forced by the National Turkey Federation to start the dumb tradition, thus ensuring that other popular Thanksgiving main courses of the time — eels, ham, roast beast, parsnips, etc. — would fall by the wayside. The Turkey Industry was the General Motors Bailout of 1947.

You don't want to know what LBJ did to that dead bird.Obviously faked, this photo of JFK’s 1963 pardoning of the bird allegedly took place just four days before he was assassinated by the CIA. Note that only a lone turkey is shown; presidents are always presented with two live turkeys, “just in case something goes wrong.”

That turkey's got a hidden mic up his butt! Nixon’s own pardon would come soon enough.

Whip Inflation Now, turkey!America was outraged by yet another shocking pardon by Gerald Ford, who is pictured here being only vaguely aware he’s president, like always.

Come look, mommy, it's a big scary bird!Say what you will about Reagan, but this was obviously the high point of his year.

Bow to me, goddamned bird.But once the Bush Dynasty had formally taken power, the childlike glee was forever gone. Now the weeping turkey cowered and bowed before GHWB, pledging all the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields in exchange for clemency.

Depends what you mean by 'pardon.'“You know, Jesse Jackson won South Carolina, too. What? Oh I hereby pardon this turkey and Marc Rich.”

Have you seen Dignity?Can you believe 2008 was George Bush Junior’s last Thanksgiving in the White House? Good-bye, George! Thanks for, uhh, fucking up the whole world forever, you turkey.

About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne
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  1. Barb

    W. looks like he's enjoying his beak-job. I wonder if he shot the turkey in the face before Cheney thought of it.

    1. Antispandex

      Well, on the bright side (if you are a Texas cracker) this is the only thing Bush ever pardoned…well, I mean, that didn't help him "refill the old coffers".

      1. Rotundo_

        I think the only pardon ever uttered by Dubya was when he farted in mixed company. That turkey was McNuggetized by afternoon.

        1. tessiee

          "I think the only pardon ever uttered by Dubya was when he farted in mixed company"

          Now you made me picture this, and you *know* he giggled that creepy serial killer giggle afterwards.

  2. sbj1964

    Rick Perry, would not give this Turkey a reprieve no more than any other. He would say "Fry 'em "! Texas style .

    1. PubOption

      Texas-style turkey-frying seemed to involve the following steps
      Get Drunk
      Put fryer very close to the house or trailer
      Fill fryer with oil and heat it up
      Leave gas on, and lower turkey into fryer
      Stagger away when the fryer overflows, and the gas lights the oil
      Hope that you are coherent enough for the fire department to understand your address.

    2. OneDollarJuana

      I think President Perry (shudder!) would put on his jogging shorts and shoot the damn thing with his coyote pistol.

      1. tessiee

        "his coyote pistol"

        Which will blow up and leave him charred black with one frazzled ear, since he bought it from the Acme Corporation.

  3. memzilla

    The difference is, unlike Shrub, no turkey has ever needed a pardon issued by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

    1. Rotundo_

      I am trying to imagine a set of circumstances in which Dubya would get a pardon from The Hague. My imagination just can't pull that one off. Not even posthumously.

    1. Tundra Grifter


      You beat me to it! I wanted to tell Ken he ran the wrong photo of Gerald Ford pardoning the biggest turkey of them all – Dick Nixon.

  4. Fukui_sanYesOta

    The turkey is far more charismatic than Ford.

    And Bush? Well, I'd put a can of finest hobo beans on the turkey being smarter.

    1. Rotundo_

      They only last a few months anyhow, even with good care. Maybe a year under remarkable conditions. They're designed to bulk up fast and not for longevity. So sending it out to Montana where the wolves or grizzlies can turn it into a hors d'oeuvre before eating people or cattle or elk probably is the kind thing.

  5. SmutBoffin

    Obamar didn't pardon the turkey this year since it had turned information vital to National Security (detailed plans of an improved turkey head chopper-offer) over to Wikileaks.

  6. PuckStopsHere

    With respect to that last picture, the one in which one that cocksucker is getting is cock sucked; even if we have nothing else about which to be thankful, we can, each of us, give thanks that that stupid mother fucker is no longer our president. That alone makes it a happy day. One of jubilee, really. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

  7. Goonemeritus

    I don’t think it’s that wise for Wonkette to get on the wrong side of the all powerful Turkey cartel.

  8. Buzz Feedback

    Reagan sold the turkey to the Iranians and used the proceeds to fund the Freedom Fighters at Chik-Fil-A.

  9. Mumbletypeg

    So Ken — which of the little Layne's got to present this mashup all decked out on posterboard for Show & Tell before a classroomfull of pre-vacation hyper-spastic fellow schoolmates this week?

  10. edgydrifter

    Observe how it's always the WHITE turkey getting pardoned (Truman excepted, and the bird in his photo probably got the knife that afternoon anyway after this fake pardon PR stunt). Think about it, citizen.

  11. Callyson

    I'm OK with pardoning the turkey if we can go on to prosecute the bankers who got us into this economic mess, the former members of the W administration who committed various acts of malfeasance, the police officers who went medieval on peaceful OWS protesters…

  12. BlueStateLibel

    The Dubya photo so wonderfully illustrates the Law of Attraction – one turkey is magnetically drawn to another turkey, you can't stop that shit!

  13. Redhead

    How can you show all these (albeit great) pictures without showing the even better one of Palin pardoning a turkey in front of the turkey slaughter-and-grind-em-up machine?

    1. edgydrifter

      Dude, don't you watch Modern Marvels? Nutritionally, it's because each of those suckers contains 245% of your daily dose of cholesterol. Don't make Michelle Obama cry. Commercially, it's because 99% of all turkey eggs go straight to industrial incubators (a frickin' turkey Matrix is what it is) to make more turkeys. Don't make Shariaball, LLC mad. Culturally, it's because they're enormous, speckled and have twin yolks, which many consumers find deeply unsettling. Don't creep out Real America.

  14. Master Janitor V572

    To avoid public humiliation, I was once made to eat eel in Italy. Not as bad as you'd think, but does not taste like chicken in the slightest, either.

  15. SorosBot

    Bush Sr. pardoned that turkey because he was another one of his Iran-Conta co-conspirators.

    (Seriously, when people talk about egregious pardons why does everyone forget Weinberger, Abrams et al?)

  16. RadiosTyrone

    WTF? What happened to LBJ? Was he so so busy playing dominoes with the Gang of Four and instituting Commie programs like Civil Rights and Medicare to worry about turkeys? Too busy stuffing Lady Bird?

  17. sbj1964

    A president has to be careful how many pardons he gives to turkeys,because his cabinet has first dibs .

  18. DerrickWildcat

    I just had a pretty good idea. I'll tell you, but don't copy me.
    There are no Thanksgiving songs! All of the Holidays have special songs or at least songs that are associated with a Holiday, but Thanksgiving doesn't! I'm going to start on my very special Thanksgiving Album. By next year, you will hear my songs allover the place during Thanksgiving! I will be very famous and sing my songs on, "The View", "Ellen" and "Fox and Friends!"
    Please don't copy my plan, because I'll have to sue your pants off!

    1. Joshua Norton

      Obviously, you've never watched a "Lawrence Welk" tribute show this time of year. There's annoying Thanksgiving songs up the wazoo.

    2. Mumbletypeg

      Eh, I think on the Peanuts® Turkey-Day Teevee Special they used to include the kids singing "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" adapted from a hymn. But no one ever tuned in to watch that one, it was like the bastard brother to the more popular Great Pumpkin or Merry Xmas Charlie Brown versions.

    3. RadiosTyrone

      Great Derrick, a fucking Kenny G Thanksgiving Album.
      Audio noodle drool to go with the tryptophans and wafting turkey farts. Not to mention Uncle Teabag Tony droning on about "you libs and how much you love Obama."
      Hey, now that I think about it, I'm glad I have to work tomorrow.

    4. tessiee

      Sorry to tell you, but Adam Sandler has a Thanksgiving song that apparently everyone but me thinks is funny.

  19. Tundra Grifter

    On a much more serious note, Pamela Geller has her panties in a bunch (again!) because Butterball turkeys are halal and, therefore, a prime example of sneaking Sharia law here in the good old USofA.

    I wish this were an urban legend. Sadly, it's not. The right wing nutz are rapidly become parodies of themselves.

      1. Tundra Grifter


        Sidebar? You mean I've been waiting in this line to get to the main bar for nothing?

        Thanx, Dude!

        Actually – I knew I'd read it somewhere.

        Got to go. The Wild Turkey is calling…

    1. RadiosTyrone

      They're also Kosher. So why doesn't she get her mikvah bath soaked bikini bottom twisted up about that? Backdoor Talmudic Law is OK, and Glatt Kosher Parve is better.

    2. tessiee

      "Pamela Geller has her panties in a bunch (again!) because Butterball turkeys are halal"

      I have no idea who Pamela Geller is or why we should care what she thinks, but Pamela Anderson is on her usual PETA rampage about us carnivores eating the poor genetically modified turkeys with their grotesquely exaggerated artifically enlarged breasts and sticklike skinny legs… and no, she is not being intentionally ironic.

  20. Beowoof

    The turkey's that run through my yard are more presidential than W. Probably smarter as they have to avoid cars and hunters and they are doing a pretty good job of that.

  21. coolhandnuke

    In the Gerald Ford photo, if you look real close up on the White House roof you can spot one of Betty Ford's white, sensible shoes resting near the ledge. Not visible to the naked eye is the passed out First Lady who had liberated a bottle of Wild Turkey that morning.

  22. chascates

    Mitt Romney would pardon the turkey, then retract the pardon.
    Newt Gingrich would talk it to death then send it a bill for $500,000.
    Michele Bachmann would scare it to death and then pray for its soul.
    Herman Cain would make sexual advances before having it placed on a pizza.
    Rick Perry would try shooting it with his .380 and, having missed it, would declare turkey unAmerican.
    Ron Paul would have it cooked but declare only whoever raised it could eat it.
    Rick Santorum would demand to know the turkey's sexual preference before making a decision.
    Jon Huntsman would have it for dinner but be accused of not being a serious eater possibly due to his religion.

    1. tessiee

      "Newt Gingrich would talk it to death then send it a bill for $500,000."

      Then cheat on his spouse du jour with it, while publicly complaining about some *other* (preferably Democratic) politician who got caught in a sexual no-no.

  23. weejee

    Yay for all the turkey pardons and best wishes for a great holiday weekend for all the Wonketteers.

    PS. This morning we got news on daughter-in-law's second CT, and the tumors have shrunk some more!!!!

    1. flamingpdog

      Wouldn't fit into the pattern. Before Nixon, all the prezes shown are Dems. Including and after Nixon, they're all Republicans.

      1. tessiee

        Listen, goddamn it, if there are pictures of *me* in bell-bottoms, platforms, and a hairdo with wings, Jimmy Carter can deal with a few pictures of him in a suit with 70s-era lapels and tie widths!

  24. BigDumbRedDog

    The only good thing about a Palin presidency would be watching her have the turkey murdered in some horrible way in front of the whole world. That would be awesome. There would be a gleam in her eyes as she exclaims "this is how we pardon turkeys in Alaska!" while chasing it with a meat cleaver and cackling.

    Sometimes the vividness of my imagination makes me worry.

    1. OccupytheDashboard

      The vividness is just a self-defense mechanism. We all use it to create an imaginary world more horrible than the one we live in. The relief we have when we learn "it was only a dream" is almost a narcotic. It's only when the horror of the real world surpasses our imagination that we have to worry.

    2. tessiee

      The only good thing about a Palin presidency would be watching her murdered in some horrible way in front of the whole world.


  25. chascates

    And I'm looking forward to our Wonkette Thanksgiving Day tradition, the wonderful Thanksgiving poem by William Burroughs, without which it's merely a 'Naked Lunch'.

  26. user-of-owls

    Call me old-fashioned, but I still think we shouldn't be pardoning Turkey.

    –Armenian in Ann Arbor

      1. tessiee

        I personally knew at least one Armenian (OK, an American of Armenian descent) when I lived in Ann Arbor; it's possible she still lives there now.

  27. DahBoner

    Did an angry mob of Republicans block Obama's pardon of the turkee yet???


  28. rocktonsam

    I always looked forward to Bush Jr. pardoning the turkey.

    It was the only thing George didn't fuck up.

  29. tessiee

    Reagan was such a fucking moron. I'm still annoyed that he got to do anything more powerful than making Ensure infomercials.

  30. datateday

    If Newt Gingrich wins, people will have trouble telling the two apart. They're like big, fat, twins, with the rolls of skin coming off of the chin area and the same strut and everything.

    1. tessiee

      Yeah, but Newt is too greasy to fry and too unimportant to bake, so we'll have to use him as a balloon in the parade instead.

  31. ttommyunger

    Truman: Double-crossed our faithful WWII Ally Ho Chi Minh and gave the French their Colony back; setting the stage for the Viet Nam War. JFK: Complicit in the murder of S. Viet Nam's President just days prior to his own assassination. Nixon and Ford: No comment necessary. George H. W. Bush: Encouraged Iraqis to revolt; then sat on his hands while Sadaam Hussein slaughtered them. Clinton: Never understood that there was a difference between Bill Clinton and the President of the United States. Dubya: Simply the worst President in modern history, period. Yup, we've got a lot to be thankful for all right.

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