Like most people in America, I love me some turkey, especially come Thanksgiving time. But also like most Americans, I don’t know much about turkeys beyond the fact that they can get very big and taste very good, especially with stuffing and mashed taters.
But after watching President Biden participate in the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony Monday, I learned a lot more about turkeys and their mannerisms – and came to have more respect for them in the process.
It all started when a video clip circulated of a turkey named “Chocolate” being put on a table in order to be pardoned by Biden during the event. Biden had a mic in his hand, a dangerous thing as his handlers would tell you – off the record, of course.
After confirming the name of the clearly uncomfortable turkey, he informed it that it was being rescued from appearing on some family’s table to eat in a few days.
He then proceeded to pet it and carry on a short, pretend conversation. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. We’ve all talked to our pets in cutesy voices before, right? From the White House transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Chocolate, you are pardoned. You are pardoned. He said, “You had to tell me that?” (Applause.) Yeah. Yeah, you are. Yeah. I’m serious.
He said, “I don’t know, man. You didn’t have to pardon me. I knew I was pardoned.” (Laughter.)
But watch the turkey’s reaction to being touched by the POTUS. His feathers fluff up and he gets puffy:
Joe Biden: “Chocolate, you are pardoned. You are pardoned. He says ‘You have to tell me that?’ Yeah. Yeah, you are. Yeah, I’m serious.” pic.twitter.com/d2iYHMkg8k
The first thing I did was Google “why do turkeys ruffle their feathers?” Because I know when cats arch their backs and their fur sort of “springs out,” it’s a defensive gesture meant to ward off anything or anyone they see as a threat.
Sure enough, turkeys exhibit similar behavior when they feel threatened, although getting puffy and fluffing their feathers can also be a sign of a mating call of sorts. LOL:
Because “strutting” is the term used to describe the behavior of a turkey puffing its feathers. This is what makes this bird go from bland to grand.
Indeed, turkeys exhibit this fascinating behavior to attract mates, show their dominance, or defend against predators.
Females or males inflate their plumage to intimidate a predator threatening their brood. So, whenever turkeys sense a threat, be it human or animal, they can use this behavior to show the predator that it is likely to go wrong if it decides to attack!
Sounds like “Chocolate” is a good judge of character, don’t you think? 😉
Sadly, Biden’s awkward “exchange” with the turkey wasn’t the only cringe moment during the ceremony. He also talked to the turkey farmer and tried to make a joke about countries he’s been to, presumably referencing Turkey in the “joke”:
THE PRESIDENT: How many turkeys have you got down there — are you raising?
MR. PARKER: Circle S Ranch grows about nine and half million turkeys a year.
THE PRESIDENT: God love you. Nine and a half million turkeys. I tell you what. That’s like some of the countries I’ve been to. (Laughter.) And the — anyway.
He’s just so danged bad at this. Even simple events, he messes them up.
In any event, let’s hope that his and First Lady Jill Biden’s visit later in the day to Cherry Point, North Carolina – where they reportedly will be serving turkey to the troops and their families – goes off better than the pardoning did. Because nothing should get in the way of a good turkey feast, including bad “jokes” from the Commander in Chief.