Big Bird flies from campaign trail to White House
February 21st, 2013
11:22 AM ET
2 years ago

Big Bird flies from campaign trail to White House

Washington (CNN) - Four months after becoming a flashpoint in the presidential campaign, Big Bird is back in the political spotlight.

The White House announced Thursday that the longtime character from public television's "Sesame Street" teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to film two public service announcements that encourage kids to eat healthy and get active. The White House said the PSAs will help mark the third anniversary of the first lady's push "to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential."

One of the PSAs shows Big Bird opting for a healthy snack as he and the first lady hang out in the White House kitchen.

The other one takes place in the East Room, with Big Bird exercising and dancing.

Flashback to October, when Big Bird was front and center on the campaign trail as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney battled for the White House. It all started in Denver, Colorado on October 4, during the first presidential debate. Romney said he would cut the federal subsidy to the Public Broadcasting Service, which airs Sesame Street, in order to help reduce the country's deficit.

"I like PBS, I love Big Bird," Romney said before adding that "I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."

Obama pounced on the remark at a campaign stop in Colorado a day later.

"Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It's about time," Obama said. "We didn't know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit, but that's what we heard last night. How about that?"

A few days later the president's re-election campaign put Big Bird in a TV ad, sarcastically casting him as a corporate fiend akin to Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay.

"Criminals. Gluttons of greed," a narrator in the spot said of the notorious white collar criminals. "And the evil genius who towered over them?"

A silhouette of the famous yellow bird appeared in a window, before the ad cut to clips of Romney saying "Big bird" on the stump.

"One man has the guts to say his name," the narrator said. "Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about, it's Sesame Street. Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest."

Responding to the ad, Romney said at a campaign rally in Iowa that Obama's focus on the remark was puzzling given the serious issues facing the nation.

"These are tough times with real serious issues so you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird," Romney said. "I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs and saving our future."

Big Bird's appearance in the Obama campaign spot spurred the character's parents at Sesame Workshop to ask the president's team to take the ad down.

"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," the group wrote. "We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."


Filed under: Michelle Obama • White House
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    They should have probably included 'Cookie Monster' and 'Oscar the Grouch'.

    February 21, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. Borderless

    In real news, our economy is tanking, stocks are plunging, unemployment is rising, GITMO is still open, we still have troops in Afghanistan, our nation is tearing itself apart... But just keep on playing golf, hanging out with celebrities, and inviting puppets (in addition to the main stream press) to the White House. Very impressive presidency, Mr. President. Very impressive.

    February 21, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. LiberalJoePlumber

    They need to quit wasting time and just implement federal laws that are on par with what NYC mayor Bloomberg is doing. Set limits on the amount of junk food which can be purchased. Limit the size of services at fast food places. More can be done.

    February 21, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Borderless

    And who created the problems you listed??? All those problems occured before the President was elected. And while the President tried to get bi-partisan support to move the country forward, the GOP said their number one priority was for the President and the country to fail. You're pointing your finger in the wrong direction pally.

    February 21, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    LiberalJoePlumber wrote:

    They need to quit wasting time and just implement federal laws that are on par with what NYC mayor Bloomberg is doing. Set limits on the amount of junk food which can be purchased. Limit the size of services at fast food places. More can be done.
    --------------
    Most people that I know chuckle at the Mayor's well intentioned attempts to enforce healthy lifestyles. For example, the ban on soft drinks says no sugary drinks over 16 ounces, but yet you can buy two of them [for a total of 32 oz] instead of a single of the old 20 ounce bottle. For example, you can buy a 2500 calorie sandwich or burger to go along with that 16 ounce soda.

    February 21, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. lottie

    poor ol big bird I guess the republicans will brand him a democrat and stop their kids from watching him.

    February 21, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Sorry, CNN. I have no interest in taking the "let's hate on the First Lady's Michelle and Laura" bait. It's just way too juvenille.

    February 21, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. critical thinking

    I'm presuming her message about eating will fall under the catagory of "Let them eat cake"

    February 21, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Blah Blah-, This president has NEVER attempted to have bipartisan agreement on anything. Insulting the other party before saying let's compromise is not being bipartisan.

    February 21, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Randy, San Francisco

    If a Republican/Tea Party president was in the White House, Big Bird would be cooked with the Thanksgving turkey.

    February 21, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. guest

    good – than maybe they wont need to send any more money to air sesame street in pakistan

    February 21, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. PJ

    "In real news, our economy is tanking, stocks are plunging???, ......but just keep playing golf..."
    --–
    The last I heard Michelle Obama is First Lady, not President.
    Congress is still on their, yet again, 9 day vacation, and the Cantor calendar has them working only 127 days this
    year.
    Congress now has the reputation of being the least productive in history.
    Congress controls the 'purse strings', but takes no responsibility for the damage they have caused.
    But just keep vacationing, hanging out with nobodies, and being puppets for the Tea Party............
    Not so impressive, Congress. Not so impressive.

    February 21, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. Name lynn

    Michelle an big bird is right about telling children to eat right, not only for the children but for the adults, michelle is not wasting time or money this is right, no politices involve not even obama thats a good thing.

    February 21, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. CB

    Borderless apparently just woke up from a 12 year coma.

    February 21, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Ancient Texan

    Perhaps you should google all five of the President's SOTU addresses. In each of those addresses, he called on both sides to work towards common ground for the good of the people during these trying economic times. And by the way Sir, can you please explain when, where and how did the President insult the other party???

    February 21, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. Bill

    @Borderless

    I do not know what stock market you follow, but my 401(k) has increased fivefold in the last three years. And the market is close to all-time highs. Get your facts straight next time. Oh, and unemployment is the lowest it has been since 2007. Even you could have googled that factoid.

    February 21, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. Lisa P.

    Great photo! It makes me smile.

    Also glad to hear that someone has finally gotten tough on Big Bird, even if it's just to encourage him to exercise more and to choose healthy snacks. We could all use a little more of that kind of "tough."

    February 21, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Al-NY,NY

    Bill

    @Borderless

    Even you could have googled that factoid.
    ----------

    Google??? That left wing propaganda machine? Fox News and talk radio is all the garbage in-garbage out these sheep need to get their talking points for daily regurgitation

    February 21, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. Malory Archer

    Rudy NYC

    Most people that I know chuckle at the Mayor's well intentioned attempts to enforce healthy lifestyles. For example, the ban on soft drinks says no sugary drinks over 16 ounces, but yet you can buy two of them [for a total of 32 oz] instead of a single of the old 20 ounce bottle. For example, you can buy a 2500 calorie sandwich or burger to go along with that 16 ounce soda.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    This is more about encouraging Americans to think about what they're consuming than depriving them of a bathtub size drink that they probably wouldn't buy if the price per ounce was the same for all sizes. When I was in high school a million years ago the movie theater where hubby & I worked (we really did meet at the movies!) made us "suggestive sell" and "up-sell" every customer who came to the concession stand: If they ordered a small softdrink we were to suggest they purchase the medium – four ounces more for just ten more cents. The largest softdrink was 20 ounces, and most customers would laugh and say they coudn't drink that much. Oh how times have changed as the smallest drink these days takes two hands to carry!

    Here in the Tampa Bay area we have a small chain called Salems (inexpensive, excellent food if you're ever in the area BTW) that offers free refills on their drinks. The cups aren't ginormous, and most customers don't even go back for free refills, but it's the psychology of the matter. We Americans have been conditioned since childhood to finish what's on our plates. When we serve dinner on small plates at home, hubby eats less and rarely goes back for seconds. Larger plates get piled with more food which then gets eaten.

    February 21, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Sly

    Most Republicans don't let their children watch Sesame Street. Too liberal. After all, who the heck teaches their children to be kind to others, to learn in school, to help the world be a better place? Generally just communists. Good Republicans teach their children to be tough, go to church instead of watching football, and drink lots of beer.

    February 21, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Feed Your Head

    Borderless is a broken parrot.
    Squalk, squalk, squalk !!!
    Also, not a very good liar.
    Still cant get over the election, huh ?

    February 21, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. The REAL Truth...

    In real news, the Grand Obstructionist Part is [STILL] on vacation, while Rome is quietly burning. But they don't care.. nothing short of the complete divisive destruction of our economy, the country and it's values will be enough.. just as long as they think they pin it on Obama.

    In other real news, Barbara Bush is now whining about public use of comments she made while First Lady (no surprise there) and it conflicts with Republican ideology, the stock market is down 0.53% from its ALL TIME HIGH, unemployment is stable and our troops are coming home from Afghanistan.

    February 21, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Ancient Texan

    While you said the President has never sought bi-partisan support, here are some examples...

    Though few republicans supported this bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or Stimulus bill passed in 2009 had bi-partisan support as well as the 2010 Tax Relief/Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Jobs Creation Act which had an overwhelmingly amount of support from House and Senate republicans. Secondly, while no republicans supported the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the President summoned both republicans and democrats before the American people in a televised Healthcare debate in 2010 at which point, over 100 republican ideas and proposals were implemented into the bill. Then there was the Financial Reform Bill which was also passed in 2010. And the majority of the republicans in the House and Senate voted for passage of this bill. There's more but I won't go into it. That is bi-partisan leadership.

    February 21, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    blah blah ... wrote:

    "And by the way Sir, can you please explain when, where and how did the President insult the other party???"
    -----------------
    He won the general election, twice. Enough said.

    February 21, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Name lynn

    Sesame street is educational with programs all types an all different colors parents let their children watch sesame street. while you people talking your children watch sesame streets without your permission.

    February 21, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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