Talking Politics At Thanksgiving, And A History Of The Turkey Pardon : The NPR Politics Podcast With Thanksgiving approaching, 58 percent of Americans are dreading the prospect of talking politics over dinner, according to a poll that also looks at civility in politics. With new allegations of sexual harassment in the news, including against Congressman John Conyers, that may well come up, too. And President Donald Trump kept with tradition and pardoned a turkey today. This episode, host/White House correspondent Tamara Keith, congressional correspondent Susan Davis and political editor Domenico Montanaro. Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org. Find and support your local public radio station at npr.org/stations.

Talking Politics At Thanksgiving, And A History Of The Turkey Pardon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/565831832/565835129" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

JACK: Thanks for listening to the NPR Thanksgiving podcast.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Happy Thanksgiving. This podcast was recorded at...

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

2:13 p.m. on Tuesday, the 21 of November.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Things might have changed by the time you hear this. OK. Here's the show and my mommy.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

KEITH: Aw, buddy. All right. That was my little guy. Your son was also in the intro.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: That's right. My son Jack (ph) was in there, too. So very proud of both of them.

KEITH: Yeah, they got the words out.

MONTANARO: They did a great job.

KEITH: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST here with an early special Thanksgiving episode. After months of speculation, President Trump issued a pardon today - to a turkey named Drumstick. But seriously, are you looking forward to talking about politics at the holiday table? If so, you are totally in the minority. We've got a new poll to prove it. And another uncomfortable topic likely to come up at many tables is sexual harassment. Shoes are dropping in the political world in a big way.

I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House for NPR.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, political editor.

KEITH: Happy Thanksgiving, guys.

DAVIS: Happy Thanksgiving.

MONTANARO: Same to you.

KEITH: Aw, are you guys going somewhere?

DAVIS: I'm going to Maine.

MONTANARO: New Jersey, where my brother's at.

KEITH: I'm going to Northern Virginia, to my house.

DAVIS: Are you hosting?

MONTANARO: Are you hosting?

KEITH: Yeah, and it's already full of people.

MONTANARO: Are you cooking?

KEITH: Mmm hmm.

MONTANARO: You have your recipe down?

KEITH: Oh, yeah. Noel (ph) and my brother - I asked my brother for, like, a little assistance this time, and he created a spreadsheet and a flow chart and a checklist with an excessive number of items on it.

MONTANARO: I'm actually a little sad that I'm not cooking this year. I usually...

KEITH: Aw.

MONTANARO: Even when I travel, I'm usually the one who gets to cook. But my brother kind of sees himself as something of a master chef, so he likes to do it himself. And maybe I'll make a side or something like that. But...

DAVIS: Is it a dairy-free Thanksgiving, Tam?

KEITH: There are some dairy-free dishes.

DAVIS: Listeners of the podcast will know that Tam eschews dairy in her life.

KEITH: (Laughter) Yeah, I'm being difficult, which is why I'm cooking.

DAVIS: That's the right - it's the way to do it, right?

MONTANARO: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: OK. So to completely change course, let's go to the news of the day. There are new allegations of sexual harassment and a new story about this settlement of sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill. All of this comes in a much larger context. There were the Harvey Weinstein stories. And then, an ever-increasing number of high-profile men in Hollywood, tech, media and politics have been suspended or fired over these allegations, including here at NPR. And Sue, you've been reporting on this a lot. Can we start with this BuzzFeed article that posted last night about Representative John Conyers? He is a Democrat from Michigan, senior member of the House of Representatives.

DAVIS: So BuzzFeed obtained documents that appear to be from a 2015 settlement reached with a female staffer of John Conyers who alleges that it was an environment of sort of pervasive sexual harassment in that she had to - of unwanted sexual advances by the congressman. And what is so interesting about this is that it is shining a bit of a light on this very opaque process in which Capitol Hill settles any kind of harassment or discrimination claims. John Conyers was initially reached at his home in Detroit by the Associated Press, in which he at first told them he was not aware of any settlement. His office later clarified that they were, and they said in a statement that they did not dispute that the claim had been paid out. But one of the critical details in a lot of these agreements is that the accused does not admit guilt.

KEITH: Right.

DAVIS: But the settlement reached is for financial sum. She was paid $27,000. The office does not admit guilt. And it's supposed to be a sealed settlement, a nondisclosed - where the parties involved can't talk about it anymore. And somehow, BuzzFeed obtained - well, we know how BuzzFeed obtained these documents. They...

KEITH: Right, this is really...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KEITH: ...An interesting aspect of this.

DAVIS: In the story, they acknowledged that they received the documents from Mike Cernovich, who is sort of a right-wing provocateur. And he said that he turned the documents over to BuzzFeed to report out the story because if he would have reported on it, it would have given Democrats ammunition to discredit the source.

KEITH: And BuzzFeed vetted it, went through all of the reporting processes.

DAVIS: They have the documents. They say three of the documents they have are notarized and that they confirmed the validity of the documents with four staffers.

KEITH: And this story came out last night, not long after Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, went on MSNBC and said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIANA DEGETTE: I was in an elevator, and then Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me. And I pushed him away.

DAVIS: Now, Bob Filner is a former member of Congress. He no longer serves. He left Congress to run for mayor of San Diego and was forced out of that office in 2013 over sexual harassment allegations.

KEITH: A bunch of them.

DAVIS: A bunch of them - and we should say also yesterday, there was a second allegation of groping without consent against Minnesota Senator Al Franken, when he was a first term senator. A woman said at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair, she posed for a photograph with him, and during that photo, he grabbed her butt.

KEITH: So this is beginning to feel like a snowball...

DAVIS: Right.

KEITH: ...I guess. And I think that the question that I have and I think the question a lot of us have is, how big is the snowball right now? Is this the beginning of this snowball, or is this the end of the snowball?

DAVIS: I think it's only the beginning. And what's interesting about this is that this is a conversation that was already starting on Capitol Hill, even before the Al Franken allegations, even before the John Conyers allegations. After the - following the other serious - Harvey Weinstein, all these other high-profile investigations had already prompted a conversation that Congress needs to do more to send a message that it's a healthy workplace.

KEITH: And that it's not above the law.

DAVIS: And it's not above the law. So particularly female lawmakers in the House and Senate have already introduced legislation to that end. The Senate has already approved a rules change to now make sexual harassment training mandatory. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House will do the same soon. He has already ordered, prior to these revelations, a full review of congressional policies regarding harassment. I think that there was a self-awareness that Capitol Hill has, by reputation and by reality, been a place in which harassing and discriminatory behaviors of all varieties, not just sexual harassment - that it's been a permissive atmosphere and that that needs to change.

MONTANARO: So, you know, on Capitol Hill, a lot changed in the '90s, obviously, with Bill Clinton, but also Bob Packwood and other people where some of this started to come to light.

KEITH: Yeah, let me just describe who Bob Packwood is because it's sort of the recent precedent we have for this. So he is a Republican senator, former senator, from Oregon, served in the Senate for a long time, was a head of a powerful committee. And then in 1992, allegations surfaced of sexual harassment, very forceful harassment. The Senate Ethics Committee ended up taking this up, and he ultimately, in late 1995, resigned after the Senate Ethics Committee voted to expel him from the Senate. Before there could be a full Senate vote, Packwood stepped down.

DAVIS: The Packwood incident is part of what propelled Congress in 1995 to pass the Congressional Accountability Act, which was a law that essentially said Congress is subjected to all the same federal regulations as every other employer in the country. And it was that law that created something that's known as the Office of Compliance, and that is the office that oversees these complaints for every employee of the legislative branch.

KEITH: And those complaints and that process, in my understanding of it - and I think you understand it a lot better than I do, Sue - is arcane, confusing, complicated, takes forever and definitely does not favor the people making the complaints. It doesn't make it easy.

DAVIS: It doesn't make it easy, and I think people are trying to change that. Under current law, if you are an employee of a legislative branch, you have only 180 days from the time of the offense to trigger the complaint process. So if it happened two years ago, three years ago, you can no longer do it. Once you file a complaint, there is a mandatory 30-day - they call it a counseling period, although it's just the terms in which they kind of take - initial intake period. It can be shorter than that, but it can be up to 30 days. At that point, you can decide if you want to go into mediation with the accused. If you agree to that, at that point, you also have to sign a nondisclosure agreement that says you will not discuss the terms of the mediation, nor will the other party.

MONTANARO: It's amazing that they have to sign a NDA.

DAVIS: Yes, it's required to go into mediation.

MONTANARO: Uh-huh.

DAVIS: In the mediation period, which has to be at least 30 days but can be extended, most of the complaints, according to testimony from House lawyers, are settled in this phase. At the end of mediation, if it has not resolved the issue, you then have an option to go to the Office of Compliance and have a private hearing before an officer who will make a determination about your complaint. Or at that stage, you can take it to the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia and file a criminal complaint. But you only have 90 days after the end of the mediation period to file a criminal complaint. But again, in most workplaces, a lot of these clashes are something that people prefer to resolve internally through an HR process, through a mediation process. So - but it's done in a way that lawmakers who want to change the system say it discourages people from filing complaints, that it doesn't give victims the kind of rights that you get in other circumstances and that when these settlements are paid out, there's no public disclosure to the terms of them, to the amount. And, yes, they're paid for by taxpayers.

KEITH: So last night I called up Barbara Boxer, who is a recently retired Democratic senator from California who was very vocal on the Bob Packwood case. She was elected in 1992 following the Anita Hill hearings and believes that she was elected because of Anita Hill. And I asked her, is now different? Do you think this is different?

BARBARA BOXER: It's stunning to me that we would be in this situation today after Anita Hill, after Bob Packwood, after John Ensign, after Bill Clinton. It just is stunning to me.

KEITH: And she says that she regrets not paying more attention to sort of the process by which complaints could be filed.

DAVIS: And now John Conyers is facing calls for an ethics investigation. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a statement said she supports the ethics committee looking into this. Two Democrats who are senior on the Judiciary Committee, in which John Conyers is the top Democrat, have also called for an ethics investigation. It seems very likely that that will have to happen considering the climate we're in. And I do think it gives even more momentum behind this legislation that is now - stands before the House and Senate, which would change the system. It's sponsored by Jackie Speier, who's a California Democrat who's been sort of the front end of this conversation, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who's a Democrat from New York in the Senate. And it would essentially do things like when you file those complaints, it would require having a victim's advocate in these sessions, so you would have some representative in there. It would be also someone who, if there is a criminal component to these allegations, can give you legal advice on what you should do. And it would make signing these nondisclosure agreements that says you can't talk about this - it would make that optional. It would expedite a lot of these timelines. And it would also say that every year, the Office of Compliance would have to disclose which employing offices have paid out settled claims and for how much.

KEITH: Jackie Speier a couple of weeks ago said that there were two members of Congress, a Democrat and a Republican, who are accused of sexual harassment, of committing sexual harassment. And she didn't say who they were. And I guess we still don't know. We don't know if these allegations against John Conyers - if he's one of them.

DAVIS: Right. And if he's not, it means that that list is getting longer.

KEITH: OK, so - and we don't - I don't think there is an answer to this question, but I think we would be remiss if we didn't mention that about a year ago, there were very serious allegations against Donald J. Trump, candidate for president. More than a dozen women came forward. And he was on tape saying that he can grab people and kiss people. He said it was locker room talk. It's this very weird thing that's happening right now where the conversation is now about Al Franken, and it's about Roy Moore, and it's about John Conyers and all of these other people.

DAVIS: I think that there is a very compelling argument to make that this cultural moment we are living in would not have happened without the "Access Hollywood!" tapes and without the election of Donald Trump. I am not convinced that this would be the moment we're living in if Hillary Clinton had won the election, in part because I think a lot of women in this country saw that happen and saw Donald Trump win and felt like they had been silenced and that if Hillary Clinton had won, it's the things that people tell themselves that, like, progress is being made. Women are being advanced, right? Like, the conversation is shifting.

But part of what is driven all these stories into the spotlight - Harvey Weinstein is a great example in that - the open secret thing, that people knew this about them, and people had tried to report it. And the smoking gun in all these cases that they could never get was women to go on the record. And I think that the election of Trump and the conversation that that started about the "Access Hollywood!" tapes was a breaking point culturally for a lot of women and in powerful industries, in Hollywood, in media and other places to say, things aren't changing. Things may not be getting better. And the thing you - and have provoked a lot of women to be willing to say, I'm willing to put my name and reputation on the line.

KEITH: Yeah. And the default used to be doubt the women. And the default now is believe the women.

DAVIS: Yeah.

KEITH: There's been a shift. There has been a distinct shift.

MONTANARO: And we have some polling numbers to back that up, actually.

KEITH: Domenico...

DAVIS: Speaking of...

KEITH: Speaking of...

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: All right. So, Domenico, you helped plan this poll. This is the NPR, the PBS NewsHour and Marist. It is out today. It covers a lot of things, including Thanksgiving, which we will get to.

MONTANARO: Yeah.

KEITH: But before the break, sexual harassment.

MONTANARO: Yeah. So what it shows is that just over a third of women, 35%, say that they've personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. What one of our pollsters said, though, was that it's not out of the realm of possibility that there are also women who still don't want to have to come forward and tell a pollster...

KEITH: Even a pollster.

MONTANARO: ...That, yes, I experienced sexual harassment or abuse personally. Maybe they just would rather not say so. So that's a possibility within the numbers. The other thing to look at here that was a really striking number was 87% of people, including 85% of women, said that they thought that their workplace handles sexual harassment well. And speaking about the women and who would be believed, two-thirds say that the accuser would be more believed than the accused.

KEITH: All of these numbers are somewhat surprising to me. But hey, there you go. Also, 9% of men say that they have been the target of unwanted sexual advances at work.

MONTANARO: There's also a big age divide here - those over 45 versus those under 45. A lot more women who are over 45 reported having been personally faced with sexual harassment in the workplace.

DAVIS: That is really interesting.

KEITH: All right. Well, we are going to take a quick break. And when we come back, so many Americans dread the prospect of talking politics at Thanksgiving. We will get into just how many.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KEITH: We're back, and in addition to those sexual harassment numbers in the new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, there were also a lot of questions about politics and how people are feeling about civility in politics and in the country these days. And the big number that jumps out at me is that 58% of Americans say they dread the idea of talking politics at Thanksgiving.

MONTANARO: I'm glad that jumped out at you. Because I saw this poll last year that was conducted by a different network that had this question.

KEITH: And you were like...

MONTANARO: And I was like, I'm going to steal that.

KEITH: ...I like that idea.

MONTANARO: Like, that looks pretty good. And like, let's see what - if there's an uptick. And there actually was a slight uptick from last year. Last year, CNN had asked this question, and it was 53% who said that they dreaded going home for Thanksgiving. And that was right after the election, which you would think - in most years, in a presidential year, most people are much more fired up about politics and want to talk a lot less about it. And then, like, a year removed, most of the time, people are, like - they settle down a little bit, and they are not quite as hopped up, right? I mean, you see this with favorability numbers as well. This time, there was an uptick from 53% to 58%, even more people this year saying they don't want to have to talk about politics around the dinner table.

KEITH: Although, I'm looking at this number that says about a 1/3, 31% are eager to talk about politics with their family and friends...

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: ...Which makes me think those are the relatives that the 58% don't want to be at the dining room table with (laughter).

MONTANARO: Can I just say, there's also...

DAVIS: Your uncle who has lots of ideas is the one you don't want to be sitting next to at the table.

KEITH: No memes allowed at the table.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, you know, I do think that there's this other number in here that was really interesting. And to that point, you know, something like half of Republicans said that they're dreading it, and 2/3 of Democrats say they're dreading it, right? So if you're thinking about that, why is that? Obviously, Donald Trump is president, and that's the out party for Democrats. So it makes it more difficult for Democrats to have to win the argument, if there is one. And you know, to that point, Democrats are saying that they find conversations with people who have a different opinion about Donald Trump, quote, "stressful and frustrating." Compare that to Republicans (laughter). More than half of Republicans say that they find those conversations interesting and informative.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: Well, there's a certain core of the Trump base who loves the idea of poking people in the eye. And you know, like - and that is what they love most about President Trump.

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, there's also just - you know, you kind of feel a little bit more satisfied with yourself on politics when your team is in power.

DAVIS: But see, I'm disappointed that you guys didn't poll how many people are dreading Thanksgiving, completely unrelated...

KEITH: To politics.

DAVIS: ...To the topics at hand, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: I could see that.

DAVIS: And why you need really good food to be the glue that gets you all to the table.

MONTANARO: And video games.

KEITH: And football.

MONTANARO: Let's be honest.

KEITH: Well, maybe not football this year, right?

MONTANARO: You know, because when...

DAVIS: Oh, God.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Because...

KEITH: Who's taking a knee?

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: OK. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, the annual presidential turkey pardon - this time with a new president - and Can't Let It Go.

All right. We are back. And we want to take you to the White House for a minute.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are here today to continue a wonderful American tradition. Today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will grant a presidential pardon to a turkey.

KEITH: I feel like there was sort of a long pause there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

KEITH: And the president told a joke. So these turkeys, Drumstick and Wishbone, will join the turkeys who were pardoned last year by President Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor. However, I have been informed by the White House counsel's office that Tater and Tot's pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: So we're not going to revoke 'em. So Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.

DAVIS: Don't they eventually just get slaughtered and eaten?

KEITH: No, no, no, no. They just eventually die because they're not meant to be, like, happy, long-living turkeys. They're meant...

MONTANARO: Right, they're bred to be eaten.

KEITH: Yeah. They die under the weight of their own breast, basically.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Oh, my God. And you were always worried about me being the dark one.

DAVIS: And also, I saw...

MONTANARO: For Christ's sake.

DAVIS: I also saw that they stayed at the Willard Hotel last night. I have never been able to stay at the Willard...

MONTANARO: OK.

DAVIS: ...Hotel in my life.

MONTANARO: Here's a fact-check on the Willard thing.

KEITH: Yes?

MONTANARO: The National Turkey Federation pays for the birds to be there. So there's no government money being funded to this.

DAVIS: That's OK.

MONTANARO: This is all turkey lobby, all big turkey money.

DAVIS: I don't - I care less about the taxpayer funds as much as...

MONTANARO: OK (laughter).

DAVIS: ...Are we putting turkeys in, like, five-star hotels the night before the turkey pardon?

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: And are they tipping the maid? Because I hope so.

DAVIS: And are they in a room, or are they just, like, in a turkey cage?

KEITH: No, no, no, no. They - I...

MONTANARO: Well, they might be in a - well...

KEITH: There was a photo op of them, like, jumping on the beds.

MONTANARO: They stage them on the bed, but they don't stay on - come on. They're in a cage.

DAVIS: That is...

KEITH: This is - seems like one of those traditions that if someone outside of this country, 'cause Thanksgiving is also uniquely American, is probably like, what is happening?

MONTANARO: Well, I'm glad you've come around to my point of view on this because two hours ago...

DAVIS: I still find it adorable.

KEITH: I find it quirky and charming. What do you think about it, Domenico?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Well, you know, so I would - I just want to say that - on the turkey pardon, I started researching this about nine years ago, eight years ago because...

KEITH: You're a pardon truther?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Well, I'm a person in search of the truth when it comes to pardons...

DAVIS: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: ...Because there was a lot of fake news, frankly, that was being peddled about what was going on. And when I would search for answers, I found things just didn't add up. For example, there were a lot of stories that would say that Harry Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey. And a lot of that confusion was sowed by Bill Clinton, who in 1997 announced in the Rose Garden on the 50th anniversary of the National Turkey Federation bringing turkeys to the White House, said that this is the 50th anniversary and Harry Truman was the first to pardon a turkey. I called up the Truman Library...

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: ...And I said, are there any photos or any kind of evidence that he pardoned a turkey? Like, I was trying to actually do a story on the first one and just, like, have it in a post that I was working on. And they said, you know, let us get back to you on that. And they got back to me a couple hours later with a statement that said that there's no evidence of Harry Truman ever having pardoned a turkey.

KEITH: Did he eat them?

MONTANARO: Yes. He would often say to reporters that those birds were destined for the family dinner table. So then I started to say, OK, so when did this thing start, right? So I employed the help of the head librarian at NBC News when I worked there. And...

KEITH: Oh, this is a longstanding thing you have.

MONTANARO: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

DAVIS: You went full...

MONTANARO: This is full Domenico Montanaro. This is, like, deep cuts, right? I just - that wasn't meant to be a turkey pun.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: So we found, when we did our library search, that the furthest back photo we could find of this was a turkey that John F. Kennedy had pardoned in 1963. Now, he didn't call it a pardon, but the bird was presented to him by the Turkey Federation, and it had a big sign hanging around its neck that said, good eating, Mr. President. So we know what the intention was there, OK? And Kennedy kind of looked at it kind of funky, like he didn't want to be part of this whole thing, kind of petted it on the head and said, maybe we'll just let this one grow.

KEITH: Aw.

MONTANARO: And then, like, sporadically over the years - Nixon, for example, we found evidence that he'd sent his to the petting zoo. Reagan also kind of did this little thing with them, but I think was supposed to keep them. And sometimes he sent them to the petting zoo also. And then in 1987, we finally get the word pardon introduced. And what happened was Sam Donaldson, who was the veteran ABC correspondent back then, shouted out a question and said, are you going to pardon Oliver North and John Poindexter, who were two of the people caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s...

KEITH: Right.

MONTANARO: ...About taking weapons from Iran and giving them to Nicaragua? All that. And Reagan deflects and says, well, you know, maybe I'll pardon this turkey. And that is literally how the word first came into the lexicon about doing this. And two years later, George H.W. Bush formalized it, and that's how we have this tradition.

KEITH: Can I tell you, like, full disclosure - I thought the turkey pardon started with Lincoln.

MONTANARO: OK, so there's actually an asterisk here.

KEITH: (Laughter) Oh, my.

MONTANARO: Lincoln is the first on record to pardon a turkey, but it was a Christmas turkey that his son had taken a liking to and they basically kept as a pet for a little while. So that's not quite the same as a Thanksgiving turkey. And the tradition of turkeys being given to presidents goes all the way back to 1873. And there was this guy named Horace Vose, who was known as the Poultry King, and he was from Rhode Island, and they sent these turkeys across the country dressed in, like, weird, like, kind of Amelia Bedelia kind of stuff, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Hey, you dressed the turkey - and she thought you put clothes on it, right? Like, they literally sent it across the country.

DAVIS: A costumed bird.

MONTANARO: A costumed bird - goggles on like Amelia Earhart or whatever - and sent it across the country. And this - he owned this thing from 1873 to 1913, when he died, and then it was, like, a free-for-all.

KEITH: All right, Domenico, you clearly can't let this go.

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

KEITH: However, we're going to let you have another Can't Let It Go in a few minutes.

MONTANARO: All right.

KEITH: And that means it is time for Can't Let It Go - that thing we do every week where we talk about stuff we can't stop thinking about, politics or otherwise. Sue, do you want to go?

DAVIS: I will go first. My Can't Let It Go this week is my new television obsession, which happened just days ago, in that over the weekend, I had dinner with a bunch of friends, and we were talking about the news and all the sexual harassment stories and all these things, and the conversation shifted into, like, what do you watch on TV to escape from all the news? And a friend of mine was like, have you watched "Riverdale"?

KEITH: What?

DAVIS: And I was like, I have not seen the show; should I watch it? And she was like, it's my guilty pleasure; you have to watch it. So on Saturday, I started watching the show. And it's - do you remember the Archie comics?

MONTANARO: Sure.

KEITH: Yeah.

DAVIS: So it's Archie and Jughead and Betty and Veronica, but it's set in modern-day Riverdale, which is the town they grew up in. And where I grew up liking those cartoons and comics but it was always very, like, kid-friendly and cartoonish...

MONTANARO: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...And comical, it's sort of reimagined as, like, mystery noir. And it's a dark town, and it surrounds a murder mystery. But it's these, like...

MONTANARO: A murder mystery?

DAVIS: Yeah. But it's these, like, beloved - you know, I think the Archie comics have been around for decades, right?

KEITH: Is it animated?

DAVIS: No. It's like...

KEITH: Oh, it's humans.

DAVIS: It's on The CW. It is a teen drama. But it's got, like a - it's a much edgier, darker, noir version of the Betty, Veronica, Archie, Jughead story.

MONTANARO: So I always did feel that there was a little bit of a dark side to the "Archie" comics because I always felt like - I mean, there always is, like, the Betty-Veronica thing.

DAVIS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: Right?

DAVIS: And in this, they're friends. And Archie's still sort of the main protagonist. But I loved the "Archie" comics as a kid, and I just love the concept of, like, totally reimagining these characters that we all know so well. And it's just kind of, like, a frothy teen show. And I have managed to watch the entire first season.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: I was going to say, have you slept or brushed your teeth?

DAVIS: In time - so I started the show on Saturday. I would let the record note that it's Tuesday, and I've made my way through the first season of the show.

KEITH: (Laughter).

DAVIS: But it has come at a time in my life that I have found television escapism to be particularly enjoying these last few days. So - and I have two 15-year-old nieces, and in the course of watching this, I like texted both of them - was like, hey, have you guys heard of this show "Riverdale"? And they both got, like, right back to me and were like, oh, my God, it's my favorite show.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: So I'm like - I'm totally on the same wavelength as my teen nieces right now in terms of what kind of entertainment I need.

MONTANARO: So can I ask you about that? So when you text with them, have you asked them if they even know what the "Archie" comics are?

DAVIS: No.

MONTANARO: (Laughter) 'Cause I do wonder, right?

DAVIS: We don't want to know.

MONTANARO: Us old people.

DAVIS: The olds don't want to know.

MONTANARO: I know.

KEITH: OK, so I'm going to go next. I was in the midst of reading several depressing stories last night, and then this thing came through my Twitter feed, and I found myself laughing out loud, uncontrollably, all alone with my phone.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: So what happened is they were imploding the Georgia Dome.

DAVIS: Yes (laughter).

MONTANARO: Yeah.

KEITH: So the Weather Channel - I don't know why the Weather Channel needed a great shot of the implosion of the Georgia Dome. But whatever.

MONTANARO: 'Cause why not?

KEITH: 'Cause why not? So they set up this beautiful shot across the street. They're going to get a beautiful shot. Three, two - and then, like, a city bus pulls up...

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: ...And just, like, completely blocks their shot.

MONTANARO: And blocks the shot for the entirety of the implosion...

KEITH: Yeah.

MONTANARO: ...And then drives off after it had finally imploded.

KEITH: Gets the passengers, drives away, and there's just, like, a cloud of dust. And the guys, the producers on the tape, are just like - well, there are a lot of bleeps, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleeps. And they're just like, oh, no (laughter).

MONTANARO: So...

DAVIS: Perfect timing for all the wrong reasons.

MONTANARO: And two sides to this, right? Like, I feel so bad for that producer and for the cameraman.

KEITH: Yeah.

MONTANARO: Because you spend all day trying to set up the best shot. You look for the vantage point. You find it, finally. It's all there, perfectly, the entire time.

KEITH: What are the chances?

MONTANARO: Right? And what are the chances that the bus rolls by right then?

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: On the other hand, this clip has gone so viral, I'm not sure anybody would have paid attention to the Weather Channel's live shot if not for the fact that it got so messed up so badly.

DAVIS: This is true.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: That's true.

DAVIS: This is true.

KEITH: All right, Domenico, what can't you let go of?

MONTANARO: Well, I can't let go of this White House press briefing we had the other day in which the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked all reporters to say what they were grateful for before asking a question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: And this will be our last press briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday in this room. So I want to share a few things that I'm thankful for, and I think it would be nice for you guys to do so as well before asking your questions. Obviously, you probably know, and it's no secret, that I'm clearly very thankful for all of you...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: ...Here in the room.

KEITH: That was sarcasm. Like, she was like, but seriously, folks...

DAVIS: Which is also not the spirit of Thanksgiving at all.

KEITH: Right.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: So here's my thing. I...

KEITH: But she - they just - she was serious about it.

MONTANARO: Absolutely. And here's the thing. I believe gratefulness is close to happiness. Like, I think those who...

DAVIS: Is that a word?

MONTANARO: Gratefulness?

DAVIS: Gratitude.

MONTANARO: Gratitude. Well, I don't know. But gratitude - I feel that being grateful...

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: ...Is linked very closely to being happy. Because I think that, you know, many of us can strive lots of times in our lives for something else without realizing how good things are that we have at the present. And I think when you have that level of understanding and satisfaction, that's when you can really, truly feel happy. So I just want to get that out of the way because this is a core thing that I believe.

KEITH: Domenico is not ungrateful.

MONTANARO: No. I'm very grateful. I am grateful for a lot of things. But what I don't like in this situation - I want to go on the record saying that I don't think reporters should have to jump through hoops to be able to ask a press secretary questions. I just think that as a free press and a free democracy goes, then a free press needs to be unabated.

KEITH: And yet...

DAVIS: Did every reporter say something that they were grateful for? I didn't see the briefing.

KEITH: A lot of reporters did. It started this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SANDERS: So anybody want to be first on what they're thankful for?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'll give it a whirl.

SANDERS: April, you've been so eager. So I'm going to go with you to start us off...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: ...On what you're most thankful for.

APRIL RYAN: I'm thankful for life. I'm thankful for my children. I'm thankful for 20 years in this job. I'm thankful to be able to talk to you and question you every single day.

SANDERS: I feel the gratefulness there.

DAVIS: Was anybody, like, funny about it?

MONTANARO: Well...

KEITH: Yeah. In fact, the last grateful reporter was pretty hilarious. Here's John Gizzi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN GIZZI: I'm thankful for the position I have and the colleagues who are my friends. I'm thankful for my father, 96 years old and going strong, and to my wife, my heroine, thankful to her for saying yes on the fourth request.

(LAUGHTER)

GIZZI: My question is about Zimbabwe.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: And in other news...

MONTANARO: In other news...

DAVIS: (Laughter).

KEITH: All right, guys. So what are you grateful for?

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: You know, Tam...

KEITH: We can't end this podcast until you tell us and our audience what you're grateful for.

MONTANARO: Well, I'll go first. So I am - I - like I said, gratefulness is really important. And I think that that's an important thing. And I'm grateful for a lot of things. I'm grateful for my kids, for the job that I have here at NPR, and, you know, just having an overall place in life where I feel pretty good about things. And I think that that's important. It's important to have family around who you can be close to and who you can lean on for things, who you really respect and need in times that are tough. So you know, I think all of that is pretty good, and looking forward to the future.

DAVIS: I'm grateful for good family and good coworkers and bad TV.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: Yeah. Yeah. And I guess I am grateful to my family. I am grateful to my friends who did not abandon me in 2016 or 2017, when I was mostly unavailable. And I'm really grateful to our NPR POLITICS PODCAST audience. I love our listeners. I love our audience. I love this conversation that we get to have with each other and with them a couple of times a week.

MONTANARO: And we're grateful for our iTunes reviews.

KEITH: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: So please leave us iTunes reviews. That helps people find this show. So we are not going to be back in your feed on Thursday for our usual roundup because that is Thanksgiving, and I will be buried under turkey. But we will be back next week. In the meantime, keep up with our coverage on npr.org, on your local public radio station and on the NPR One app. One of us is always on Up First every weekday morning, and if you're in the D.C. area, we have a live show coming up in January at the Warner Theater, in partnership with our member station WAMU. You can find more info and get tickets online at nprpresents.org. That's nprpresents - all one word - .org.

I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House for NPR.

DAVIS: I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

MONTANARO: I'm Domenico Montanaro, political editor.

KEITH: And thanks for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Happy Thanksgiving.

KEITH: This podcast was recorded at...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: The podcast was recorded at...

KEITH: OK. Try that one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: This podcast - I forgot. Thanks for listening to the NPR podtacst (ph). Podtacst.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Podcast.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: We have to redo that one.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: No. Happy Thanksgiving. Turkey.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.