President Biden spent his 81st birthday struggling through an abbreviated turkey pardon ceremony in which he botched his only joke.
Mr. Biden mixed up Britney Spears and Taylor Swift and made a bizarre reference to a heat wave that is believed to have killed a fan at Ms. Swift’s concert.
This year’s turkey pardon was scheduled on Mr. Biden’s birthday and the nation’s oldest commander-in-chief didn’t have any other plans on his public schedule. The event was shorter than it was in the past with Mr. Biden speaking for only about six minutes.
He also botched the only joke he told by trailing off in mid-sentence and then confused the identities of Ms. Spears and Ms Swift.
The attempted joke was about how the two turkeys beat some tough odds to make it to the White House, comparing it to finding tickets for Beyonce’s Renaissance concert tour.
“They had to work hard to show patience and be willing to travel over a thousand miles,” he said. “You could say even harder than getting a ticket to the Renaissance Tour or — for Britney’s tour. She’s down in — it’s kind of warm in Brazil right now.”
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Ms. Spears is not currently touring, but Ms. Swift’s Eras tour is currently in Brazil. She performed in Rio de Janeiro last week but postponed her second show on Saturday following the tragic death of a fan at her first concert.
The death occurred amid a heat wave in Brazil making Mr. Biden’s jovial reference to the heat in Brazil even more awkward.
The time-honored but quirky White House Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning two turkeys provided a brief respite from all the crises surrounding Mr. Biden, ranging from sky-high food prices to wars in Europe and the Middle East.
Mr. Biden used his clemency powers to spare Liberty, a 42.5-pound turkey and Bell at 42.1 pounds in an event on the White House South Lawn.
The two turkeys, who were hatched in July hail from Willmar, Minnesota and were sent to the White House from the Jennie-O Turkey Store.
As is the custom, the two birds received the celebrity treatment ahead of their big appearance at the White House. They were driven to Washington in a stretch Cadillac Escalade with a pen inside and stayed at the Willard InterContinental hotel, just steps away from the White House.
Following the ceremony, Liberty and Bell will return to their home state and live out their days at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources.
In 2021, Mr. Biden pardoned turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly and last year he gave Chocolate and Chip, a reprieve. All four returned to their home states to live out their days far away from the dinner table.
The origins of the annual White House turkey pardon are shrouded in mystery. Some say it started when President Lincoln set free a bird that his family planned to eat for Christmas after his son Tad pleaded with him to set it free.
In 1963, just before his assassination, President Kennedy decided to send back the Thanksgiving turkey that arrived at the White House, saying it should grow up. Mr. Kennedy never formally granted the turkey clemency, however.
Some have credited President Truman with the pardon, but in 2003 his presidential library said there were no documents, speeches or newspaper clippings suggesting that he ever pardoned a turkey during his presidency.
The first official pardoning began in 1989 by President George H. W. Bush. It has happened every year since then.