Skip to content

Freedom granted to Liberty and Bell in annual turkey pardoning

Biden jokes about age on his birthday, but says he believes a hostage deal is near

President Joe Biden pardons the turkey, Liberty, from Willmar, Minn., during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday Nov. 20, 2023. Steve Lykken, center, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Jose Rojas, vice president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, also appear.
President Joe Biden pardons the turkey, Liberty, from Willmar, Minn., during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday Nov. 20, 2023. Steve Lykken, center, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Jose Rojas, vice president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, also appear. (Tom Williams/ CQ Roll Call)

It’s been a tense autumn at the White House. Between wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, a leadership scramble in the House, and the President’s plummeting approval rating, it’s unclear how voters will treat the administration next year.

But two Biden administration VIPs already know they’ll fight to see another day: On Monday, President Joe Biden pardoned turkeys named Liberty and Bell, saving them from a certain fate on an American Thanksgiving table.

“These birds have a new appreciation for the words ‘let freedom ring,'” Biden said.

The ceremony before a cheering crowd on the White House South Lawn came as the White House is reportedly negotiating a deal with Israel and Hamas to release hostages in exchange for a temporary cease-fire. It’s unclear how many of the 239 hostages would be released. At least nine Americans and one legal permanent resident are among the group. Two American women were released by Hamas on Oct. 20

At the conclusion of the kitschy turkey event, a reporter shouted a question at Biden about a hostage deal being near. 

“I believe so,” the President responded, holding up a hand with fingers crossed. 

Pop culture faux pas 

The 76-year-old Washington tradition spans multiple administrations and is largely a joke, poking fun at the president’s constitutional powers to grant clemency.

Biden’s birthday also happened to fall on turkey pardon day this year, and the 81-year-old president mentioned it to the crowd. “It’s difficult turning 60,” he said, to some laughter.

But Biden’s age is also one of his biggest weaknesses going into the 2024 election, with many young voters turning away from Biden. A Sunday poll from NBC found Biden’s approval rating has reached its lowest point, 40 percent.

Biden tried to use the lighthearted Thanksgiving event to appeal to a younger audience, making jokes about pop culture, but he missed the mark.

The turkeys came to D.C. from Minnesota, and had to travel more than 1,000 miles.  

“You could say that’s even harder than getting a ticket to the Renaissance Tour. Or Britney’s tour. She’s down, it’s kinda warm down in Brazil right now,” Biden said.

The president was likely referring to Taylor Swift, who is currently in Brazil on the South America leg of the sold-out Era’s tour.

Britney Spears is not currently touring.