By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden, wearing his trademark aviator sunglasses, pardoned two turkeys from North Carolina named Chocolate and Chip on Monday, sparing them from Thanksgiving dinner tables.
In return, the pair of enormous turkeys gobbled their appreciation in the latest installment of the smile-inducing tradition at the White House to kick off the holiday season.
With November temperatures providing a chill in the air on the South Lawn, Biden said he did not want to have a long event because “nobody likes it when their turkey gets cold.”
The U.S. military band got the crowd in the mood for the event by playing a version of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Free Bird” ahead of the pardon. From the balcony of the White House behind Biden, his German shepherd Commander observed and barked loudly.
Millions of turkeys will be roasted in Thanksgiving ovens on Thursday across the country and drenched in gravy, accompanied by a variety of side dishes from potatoes to green bean casserole.
But Chocolate, weighing in at 46 pounds (21 kg), and Chip, at 47 pounds, will live out their lives in their home state, at North Carolina State University. The White House turkey pardon is a tradition that dates back decades.
Biden referred to the midterm congressional elections on Nov. 8 in which Democrats held on to control of the U.S. Senate and lost the House of Representatives by a slim margin to Republicans, denying the opposition party its hoped-for “red wave.”
“The votes are in. They’ve been counted and verified. There’s no ballot stuffing. There’s no ‘fowl’ play,” he quipped. The only “red wave,” Biden said, will be if Commander knocks over the cranberry sauce.
Later on Monday evening, Biden and his wife Jill flew to North Carolina to thank Marines based there during a “Friendsgiving” dinner.
“You represent 1% of the population and you defend the rest of us,” Biden said before donning an apron and gloves to spoon out mashed potatoes for service members. “We wanted to come and tell you how much we appreciate all you’ve done.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Josie Kao and Rosalba O’Brien)