At Trump's final bizarre turkey pardon, his ongoing refusal to concede was the elephant in the room

The president talked up the Dow and made a racist swipe at the "China virus," but no mention of the transition

By Ashlie D. Stevens
November 24, 2020 9:21PM (UTC)
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US President Donald Trump speaks after pardoning Thanksgiving turkey "Corn" as First Lady Melania Trump watches in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 24, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Days before Thanksgiving 2018, two turkeys — Peas and Carrots — were vying for the presidential pardon, an oddball tradition formalized by George H.W. Bush in 1989. Leading up to the event, the White House had set up online and social media polls to determine the fowls' fates. 

When the votes were finally tallied, President Donald Trump revealed that Peas had won in "a fair and open election." 

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"Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we're still fighting with Carrots," Trump said at the time. "And I will tell you, we've come to a conclusion — Carrots, I'm sorry to tell you, the results did not change. Too bad for Carrots!"

Too bad for Carrots, indeed. 

During this year's turkey pardon, held Tuesday in The White House Rose Garden, Trump didn't mention his own refusal to officially concede the 2020 presidential election, nor did he reference the numerous, baseless allegations of voter fraud he and his oddball legal team lobbed into courts across the country (despite the fact, as Salon's Roger Sollenberger has reported, no state election officials have reported evidence of such fraud). 

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The president did, however, open the event by talking about the stock market, and even managed to squeeze in a racist reference to the "China virus" between pardoning one of the "two magnificent gobblers" in attendance. 

"Thank you very much, please," Trump said as he stepped in front of the microphone. "I just want to congratulate everybody. The Dow Jones Industrial Average just broke, for the first time in history, 30,000. That's good, that's great for jobs and good for everything." 

The president had already held a surprise, one-minute press conference earlier in the day, The Hill reported

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"His appearance on Tuesday may have been an attempt to grab credit for the historic rise on the Dow, and to siphon some attention away from Biden, who was scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. about his Cabinet picks," The Hill's Brett Samuels wrote

It's also worth pointing out that the Dow surpassed 30,000 shortly after several of Biden's Cabinet picks were announced, along with updates on the development of several effective COVID-19 vaccines.

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The turkey pardoning was a short event as well, lasting less than ten minutes, much of which Trump spent talking about the novel coronavirus. 

"During this Thanksgiving we extend our eternal gratitude to the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and scientists who have waged the battle against the China virus," Trump said. "We give thanks for the vaccines and therapies that will soon end the pandemic. It's just such a tremendous feeling knowing they are coming, and they are coming likely next week or shortly thereafter." 

The president then proceeded to officially pardon Corn — whose compatriot was named Cob — a 42-pound turkey who will retire to Virginia Tech's "Gobblers Rest," at the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

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As Trump turned to walk back into the White House, a reporter called after him, asking what most Americans are probably thinking as the president's days in office draw to a close: "Will you be issuing a pardon for yourself?"


Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is a staff writer at Salon, specializing in culture and food.

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Covid Donald Trump Dow Jones Novel Coronavirus Thanksgiving Turkey Turkey Pardoning White House