By Justin Sink
President Obama gave Popcorn — the 38-pound Minnesota bird named this year's national Thanksgiving turkey — a "full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing" at the annual presidential turkey pardon Wednesday at the White House.
In a dreary ceremony relocated from the Rose Garden to the North Portico because of the storm battering Washington, D.C., Obama announced Popcorn had bested Caramel in an online vote conducted by the White House. Both gobblers are from the farm of National Turkey Federation Chairman John Burkel.
Obama joked that the contest was "quite literally the Hunger Games" and noted that Popcorn's win was evidence "that even a turkey with a funny name can find a place in politics."
He added that Caramel was "keeping busy already raising money for his next campaign."
Both turkeys will be spared from a Thanksgiving table, and will head to George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon to live out the remainder of their lives.
The annual turkey pardon reportedly harkens back to President Lincoln, who offered reprieve to a pet turkey of his son Tad that was set to be served as part of a holiday meal.
Former Presidents Kennedy and Nixon also made a point of returning turkeys presented to the White House to either their original farms or local petting zoos. Former President George H.W. Bush became the first president to formally announce the turkey pardon during the 1989 turkey presentation.
But the ceremony is not without controversy. Last year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the White House demanding Obama skip the pardon, accusing the president of being in partnership with the "turkey-killing industry."
This year, musician and animal rights activist Morrissey accused Obama of setting an “abysmal example” with its "embarrassingly stupid" ceremony.
Later Wednesday, the president and his family will take two turkeys donated by a Pennsylvania farm to a local Washington-area food bank.