(WASHINGTON) -- Millions of Americans will sit down to turkey dinner on Thursday, but President Obama continued the White House Thanksgiving tradition of sparing two lucky birds from being part of the national feast. He added some jokes about his recent reelection.
"You know, they say that life is all about second chances. And this November, I could not agree more," he said. "So in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give. And it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler. The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward."
The Thanksgiving tradition of "pardoning" a turkey at the White House is one that dates back all the way to the time of Abraham Lincoln. At Wednesday’s White House ceremony, Obama pardoned Cobbler; Gobbler was also spared in case Cobbler is somehow unable to fulfill his duties.
Each Thanksgiving, the sitting President of the United States uses his executive power to "pardon" a chosen turkey. Americans were able to vote this year on a special Facebook page.
"Now, I joke, but -- but for the first time in our history, the winners of the White House turkey pardon were chosen through a highly competitive online vote," said Obama. "And once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it. The guy's amazing. He predicted these guys would win."
Nate Silver is the New York Times statistical analyst who correctly predicted the president's reelection victory.
Obama was joined at the turkey pardon by his daughters, Malia and Sasha, who he said would accompany him -- along with "two turkeys who were not so lucky" to a local food bank later Wednesday.
Cobbler and Gobbler will spend the rest of their days at Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington just outside Washington.
PETA, the animal rights group, has supported the turkey pardoning in the past, but this year changed course.
"It makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States' president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry," PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter sent to President Obama Tuesday. "Turkeys do not need to be 'pardoned' — they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals."
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