U.S. President Barack Obama pardoned two Thanksgiving turkey on Wednesday in what he said was sure to be the “most talked-about” executive action of the month, referring jokingly to his executive decision last week offering protection to roughly 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked about executive action this month,” Obama said at the White House ceremony. “Today I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority. The same kind of action taken by Democrat and Republican presidents before me. To spare the lives of two turkeys.”
The president, along with his two daughters Malia and Sasha, spared a 49-pound bird named “Cheese” and turkey 47-pounder named “Mac” from the dinner table.
His children seemed less enthused, however: Asked to pet the birds, his oldest daughter Malia declined.
Following the pardoning ceremony, Obama responded to news reports that questioned the wisdom of the tradition, saying “it is a little puzzling that I do this every year.”
Obama, who faces a Republican controlled House and Senate in 2015, said the ceremony provides a moment of levity.
“With all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say `Happy Thanksgiving,’ and this is a great excuse to do it,” he said.
According to the White House, presidents going back to Abraham Lincoln have spared turkeys but the first president to officially pardon a turkey was President George H.W. Bush in 1989.