Big Bird puts his big orange foot down
October 9th, 2012
09:38 AM ET
10 years ago

Big Bird puts his big orange foot down

(CNN) – This is one angry bird.

After President Barack Obama's campaign released a commercial using the Sesame Street character to mock rival Mitt Romney, Big Bird's parents at Sesame Workshop asked the president's team to take it down.

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"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."

Whether the ad airs or not remains in question – Team Obama indicated Tuesday it would air on national broadcast and cable, specifically targeting comedy shows, rather than in the usual swing states where campaigns purchase ad time. But the ad is getting plenty of free air time on newscasts as part of campaign coverage.

An Obama campaign official said they had received Sesame Workshop's statement and were reviewing their concerns.

The commercial itself is dripping with sarcasm, a tone not usually used in political commercials. It casts Big Bird as a corporate fiend akin to Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay.

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

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

"One man has the guts to say his name," the narrator says. "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."

At last week's 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.

Romney said Tuesday Obama's focus on the remark was puzzling given the serious issues facing the nation.

"I know there is a lot of attention being paid to the campaign these days and there is a good reason for that. I mean when you have so many people having tough times," Romney said at a campaign rally in Iowa.

"I mean 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 continued to cheers and laughter. "I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs and saving our future."


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Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (433 Responses)
  1. Frank

    It's time the grown-ups entered the room and stopped this foolish subject. There is too much at stake.

    October 10, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. mm

    Sesame Workshop makes hundreds of millions a year through merchandise being sold at toy store outlets all over America. Additionally, they have hundreds of milllions in annual corporate donations. They will be just fine without federal grants. Romney is right. Although the amount of money donated to Sesame/PBS is negligible compared to the debt, cuts have to start somewhere. Every little bit counts. Romney never said anything disdainful towards Big Bird or the characters, nor to the lessons they teach children. He just questioned the need for federal (taxpayer)subsidies.

    October 10, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. Big Bird should never have been dragged into this.

    Former Governor Romney dragged Big Bird's name into this and mentioned that he would cut PBS to help reduce the deficit. RIDICULIST! Romney's Big Bird statement is the most memorable moment of his performance, because it was so absurd. By the way how dare Romney tell his debate host (Jim Lehrer) that he would cut funding for Jim Lehrer's network (PBS). That is just cold. Did Jim do offend you?

    October 10, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. IndyIndependent

    Sesame Workshop just gave the Obama campaign the big bird...

    October 10, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. Muzak

    @robert is on point.
    Romney first raised the Big Bird issue in the debate. This article doesn't mention that. Once a candidate says something, anything, it is fair game. I fully expect the Obama campaign to make fun of this.

    October 10, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Lisa P


    PBS demands that Obama stop using a non-partisan character they own and he refuses.

    AARP demands that Obama stop running campaign ads using them as his "authority" and he refuses.
    October 10, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm
    As I understand it, the Obama campaign's use of Big Bird falls under Fair Use/Political Speech. It's allowed. By the same token, the Children's Television Workshop has to assert their ownership of the character in order to avoid the risk of some future entrepreneur asserting that Big Bird is in the public domain, and therefore free for everyone to use (and make money from) as much as they would like. Just another day in intellectual property law - nothing to see here.

    If AARP published information they have absolutely no say in who cites it or how. Attributing it to AARP simply reports a fact.

    October 10, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. phil

    @mm: yes we have to start cutting somewhere and yes every little bit counts. But why is it ok to cut something educational like PBS in order to increase our military spending?? We already spend more on our military than the next five nations combined, and we need to increase that? Why do we have to be the worlds police force? Why don't we start cutting where it really makes a difference. Close foreign military bases, bring our troops home, end multi-billion dollar defense contracts that the project ends up being scrubbed because the contractor had no accountability (Abrams tank anyone) and then see how much your taxes will go down. Smaller government = smaller military. Its about priorities folks.

    October 10, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. fernace

    This isn't about Big Bird, it's about what Romney will go after if he becomes President! Nothing is sacred, nothing is exempt! He will help to fund his rich 1% & military budget by cutting anything he finds un-necessary! No wonder he & Ryan are going after SS, Medicare & womens healthclinics! We will rue the day he takes office, mark my words! You think Obama is hated, you haven't seen nothing yet!! Obama Nov.6!

    October 10, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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