President Barack Obama pardoned a turkey named Cheese on Wednesday afternoon at the White House, joking it surely would be his most talked-about executive action this week.
Cheese beat Mac, another turkey from Cooper Farms in Oakwood, Ohio, for the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey. Continuing a tradition that started in 2012, the White House invited the American people to cast their votes online for the winning turkey using the hashtags #TeamMac or #TeamCheese on Twitter.
Noting a post on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog critical of the tradition, Obama admitted he, too, is puzzled why he is asked to pardon a turkey each year.
But, he said, “I will say, with all the tough stuff that swirls around this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.'”
Americans have been sending turkeys to the president for his Thanksgiving dinner since 1873, when a Rhode Island man named Horace Vose selected the “noblest gobbler in all that little state” for President Ulysses S. Grant, according to the White House’s definitive history of the presidential turkey pardon.
The White House began holding a receiving ceremony for the birds in 1947.
It didn’t begin formally issuing pardons for the National Thanksgiving Turkey until 1989, under President George H.W. Bush, though previous presidents occasionally had granted their birds a reprieve. President Abraham Lincoln perhaps first and most famously issued a pardon to the turkey meant for his Christmas dinner after his son Tad argued it had as much a right to live as anyone.
Neither Mac nor Cheese will be eaten for dinner tomorrow at the White House, though Obama noted his family would be delivering two turkeys that didn’t make the cut to others less fortunate this year.
Just as in years past, both turkeys will be pardoned. After the announcement, they’ll travel to Morven Park’s Turkey Hill, a historic turkey farm located at the home of former Virginia Governor Westmorland Davis in Leesburg, Virginia, according to the White House.
That’s not amnesty, Obama joked.
The National Thanksgiving Turkey weighs 49 pounds and has a four-and-a-half-foot wingspan, according to the White House. Cheese struts like a grand champion and gobbles like a romantic country crooner, it said.
The runner-up, Mac, is a 47-pound feather-shaker with a four-foot wingspan and a bluegrassy gobble, according to the White House.
Previous National Thanksgiving Turkey winners include Popcorn (2013) and Cobbler (2012).