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Obama carries on Thanksgiving tradition, pardons turkeys

U.S. President Barack Obama laughs with his daughters Sasha and Malia (R) as he pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey, Cobbler, in The Rose G
U.S. President Barack Obama laughs with his daughters Sasha and Malia (R) as he pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey, Cobbler, in The Rose G

By Margaret Chadbourn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday pardoned a pair of turkeys - Cobbler and Gobbler - quipping that the two birds deserved a second chance, an old adage he said he could not agree with more following his re-election.

"They say life is all about second chances," Obama said. "And this November, I couldn't agree more."

With his daughters Malia and Sasha by his side in the Rose Garden, Obama joked about the "highly competitive" social media campaign organized by the White House to decide which bird would be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey this year.

"The American people have spoken! And these birds are moving forward," Obama said to audience laughter, as Cobbler gobbled from the stage.

For the first time, the White House held an online contest for the U.S. public to decide which bird would get the title, a twist on the traditional Thanksgiving event.

The decision was between Cobbler and Gobbler, born on the same day and raised on a farm in Rockingham County, Virginia.

Obama announced that Cobbler beat his competitor, though both escape the chopping block: the turkeys will retire to the historic home of George Washington at Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Because of your votes, the only Cobbler anyone's eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream," he said.

Gobbler will serve as this year's alternate National Turkey.

"From here, these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune," Obama said.

After the joking and heavy poultry punditry, Obama wished American families a safe and healthy holiday. He spoke about the devastation in the Northeast from superstorm Sandy, and thanked U.S. military armed forces.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals on Tuesday asked for the White House to end the Thanksgiving pardoning tradition. PETA wrote that the ceremony "makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds."

In 1947, President Harry Truman was the first recipient of a bird gifted by America's turkey farmers. The tradition was continued, but in 1963, President John Kennedy decided to send his gift back to the farm where it came from.

President George H.W. Bush became the first to officially offer a turkey pardon at the White House in 1989.

(Reporting By Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Todd Eastham)

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