This story was first published in 2012, and has been published every year since.
For one day each year, the turkey gets its time to shine. While most of that shining is done quite literally, as the glazed centerpiece of Thanksgiving feasts around the nation, a few fortunate fowl are granted pardons and given a chance to live out their not-so-long lives in greener pastures, awkwardly bobbing their heads, crying gobble-gobble and whatever else it is that turkeys do.
Those symbolic pardons may make the turkey eaters among us feel somewhat better about stuffing our faces with coma-inducing amounts of gravy-smothered poultry, yet during one such event in 2008, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) managed to tear the mask (or head?) off the whole charade. We’ll call it the greatest turkey-related disaster in the history of politics.
Fresh off a defeat in the 2008 presidential election, Palin headed to a turkey farm in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, to pardon a local bird ― a common practice among governors.
Palin delivered her prepared remarks over frequent interruptions from clucking birds not as fortunate as the turkey getting the reprieve. She even touted herself as a “friend to all creatures great and small” before posing for a photo op.
What happened next was entirely unexpected. While many had recently learned that Palin could be unpredictable ― even a maverick, perhaps ― Americans couldn’t have foreseen her conducting a lengthy on-camera interview while live birds were being fed into a machine of mass turkey murder mere feet behind her.
Palin seemed to unwittingly nail her remarks, commenting on the need to find “levity” in her job as turkey after turkey was decapitated by the metal cone of death in the background. The man shoving the struggling birds into the device even looked up toward Palin and the camera as the governor presciently predicted that the spectacle would invite skepticism.
(The goriest moments have been censored in the video above.)
Although her office later denied that she’d known what was playing out behind her, Palin was reportedly asked if she wanted that particular backdrop for her interview, to which she replied, “No worries.”