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As he ignores election defeat, Trump to pardon turkey

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — While President Donald Trump continues to resist the American tradition of conceding his election defeat, he will take part in another time-honored tradition Tuesday: Pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

The annual event typically serves as a light-hearted reprieve from the partisan rancor of Washington, with the president delivering remarks stuffed with bad puns and concluding with a playful pardon of a turkey.

This year, the atmosphere surrounding Tuesday’s pardon is notably more subdued. The president has largely remained out of public view since his election defeat, not taking a single question from reporters in the three weeks since and has instead fired off angry missives on Twitter falsely claiming he won the election.

He has also largely ignored the coronavirus pandemic raging across the country, holding one event touting progress with vaccines while failing to acknowledge the U.S. COVID-19 death toll passing 250,000.

Ahead of Tuesday’s event, the president made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room, where he delivered remarks for just 63 seconds to tout the stock market and vaccine progress before promptly departing without taking questions.

In the first major sign of the president accepting the reality of his defeat, the Trump administration on Monday formally recognized the Biden transition, freeing up government resources and outgoing and incoming teams to coordinate. The president subsequently tweeted that the cooperation did not amount to a concession.

Despite the president’s relatively quiet public presence since the election — most days, he has had nothing on his public schedule, and he has spent his weekends golfing — he made an exception for the annual turkey-pardoning tradition.

This year’s turkeys are named Corn and Cob and they hail from a farm in Iowa.

The White House has posted a poll on Twitter, asking people to vote for which turkey they’d prefer to take the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey. As of noon on Tuesday, Corn had a nearly eight-point lead on Cobb in the poll.

It remained to be seen if the president would honor the unofficial poll in choosing which bird to officially pardon this year.

But as the president now contests the results of his own election loss, a joke he made during the 2018 turkey pardon has taken on new meaning. At the time, the president joked that the losing turkey, Carrots, was refusing to concede defeat and was contesting the election results.

“The winner of this vote was decided by a fair and open election conducted on the White House website. This was a fair election,” the president joked to laughter. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.”

“I will tell you, we’ve come to a conclusion: Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change. It’s too bad for Carrots,” the president joked.

But while only one turkey wins the official title of National Thanksgiving Turkey each year, the reality is that neither turkey will lose its life as a result of the White House ceremony.

Both lucky birds will instead go to Virginia Tech University, where they will live out the remainder of their natural lives at a facility known as “Gobbler’s Rest” like the National Thanksgiving Turkeys that have gone before them.

The tradition of the president pardoning a turkey can be traced back as far as President Abraham Lincoln, who spared a turkey from becoming the family’s Christmas meal at the intervention of his son.

But the tradition of the formal turkey pardoning, as we know it today, didn’t start in earnest until President George H.W. Bush in 1989, who jokingly passed down a pardon to the turkey presented to him as animal rights activists protested nearby, according to the White House Historical Association.

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