Big Bird puts his big orange foot down
October 9th, 2012
09:38 AM ET
9 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. Jeckers

    We need to be discussing Wall Street and Main Street – not Sesame Street.

    October 9, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. Gina

    Though I do not agree with the Obama campaign for airing the "Big Bird" ad, or the attack on Gov. Romney for finally being specific, I wonder why it is that the governor would mention PBS. Could it be that along with his other cuts, PBS is just another that will affect the poor and middle-class?

    October 9, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    I voted for Obama/Biden last week, and now I help people with no vehicles get to the polls to vote. It's a small contribution to save our country from fascism (corporatism).

    October 9, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. Manny

    Well that all this president can talk about: Big Bird. He cannot talk about his record.

    October 9, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Message to Obama Campaign: Don't mess with Angry Birds!

    October 9, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  6. Big Bird


    Im not supposed to tell anyone,
    but i am voting for Obama.
    If Oscar finds out he will hit me with his tin can.

    October 9, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  7. Wade

    Obama was caught Lying again by fact checkers saying he is lying about Romney lying! Now that is just too funny. Obama calling others liars when in fact he is the liar!. LOL. Now Big Bird gives Obama the Big Bird ans says I am not your attack dog for MITT. Also too funny. Poor empty chair Obama just can't catch a break even some of the Liberal media are now calling him on his crap. The world must surely be ending when the Liberal media starts actually reporting the bad things about Obama. Maybe the Liberal media understands now that 70 to 80 % depending on which poll you read no longer believes what they say.

    October 9, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. reaperfearer

    Hahaha – all anyone remembers of Romney in the debate is Big Bird. Hilarious.

    October 9, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. JOE

    Why aren't you running on your record Obama? LOL

    October 9, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  10. aaron

    Sesame Street might better take sides. Mitt wants to cut taxes on the rich, Sesame Street is likely to be destroyed to fund that effort.

    October 9, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  11. aaron

    I suspect that you're clueless about most things.

    October 9, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  12. Mike

    Why is the Big Bird issue considered "small ball" by you CNN commentators? It is the PERFECT EXAMPLE to define the difference between Romney and Obama!

    Big Bird represents the Children's Television Workshop, one of the most effective tools in our country's arsenal to educate our next generation for the jobs of the future. How many inner-city, suburban, poor and privileged children alike have learned the fundamentals of reading and math from Sesame Street?!

    The question is: why doesn't Romney value this relatively minor public investment if he honestly values pulling people out of poverty and into the middle class, as he has been claiming recently? I thought Romney was supposed to be the shrewd businessman of the bunch; wouldn't this asset for job creation be the very type of expenditure worth borrowing money for, seeing its cost to value ratio?

    And why can't the Obama team frame the conversation like that?!?! Romney is clearly out of touch, and the Obama camp can't seem to keep the conversation clear and on message. Very frustrating.

    October 9, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. Snarks

    Not even Big Bird likes obama. That bird is smarter than all the degenerate liberals who are going to vote for their king without a crown again. If you vote for obama, you should be shipped off to north korea.

    October 9, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. Cyphrus

    I see Romney is playing tennis here. First, he mentiones PBS and Big Bird, and now he's trying to criticize Obama for talking about him. Way to own up to your words Mr. Romney. I actually gave you a chance, but after months of listening to you, I still have absolutely no clue on what or how you plan on fixing this country.

    I would much rather go with Obama because we are seeing positive change with him, even if it's not as fast as some people would like it to be.

    October 9, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  15. RudyG

    Obama will throw ANYTHING into the ring to provide diversions, including Big Bird! Now he's really outdone himself. Instead of getting serious about the 23 million he hasn't helped, he goes to Hollywood to joke about his debate and Big Bird! Good! Keep clowning around. Soon you'll have to go work for Big Bird!!

    October 9, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  16. bannister

    Good for PBS. Makes me more likely to support them now.

    October 9, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Education should not have political boundaries. Sesame is a good, clean and entertaining show for children across all spectrums. For Obama to surrept a fictional character to divide and conquer is unforgivable. This veteran will never vote for ANY DEMOCRAT in this election.

    Pennsylvania Born and Bred

    October 9, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  18. Dave

    The CBB got over 1 million dollars from the stimulus and created 1.5 jobs with that million. Sesame Street is worth $400 million, maybe they can go off welfare.

    October 9, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  19. RScottus

    This President has no decency or ethics. They were asked to cease and dissest using copyrighted characters, and they are REFUSING? The ARROGANCE of this administration. One more reason he needs to be removed.

    October 9, 2012 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  20. gogoman

    As an international observer let me join in the laughter, along with China which is chomping at the bit at the thought of having "Mr Etch-A-Sketch Outsource" take over, along with Putin who salivates at the prospect of having "Mr Flip-Flop White Noise", who thinks Syria is a cartoon show, on his breakfast menu. Go on- "make my day"- every day, for four years- every day – every day- for four years- every day.

    October 9, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. CaliforniaBC

    I think it is great ad. Yes, Big Bird and Sesame Street are supposed to out of politics but Romney and GOP have brought them into the fray. It's their idea to cut funding to something virtually every child has benefited from for what purpose...? To cut debt to China?? Really?? The amount of money spent on PBS is WHOLLY insignificant to what is spent on defense... the massive monies given to the Defense Department that itselfs says it DOES NOT need.

    May Roms and the GOP/Tea Party can stop trying to cut everything that has a link to education and try some common sense for once.

    October 9, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  22. ColorMaven

    "Jim Henson's Muppets, of which Big Bird is one, make hundreds of millions of dollars each year in toy sales and royalties (e.g. Elmo, Miss Piggy, Kermit). The Muppets franchise alone could fund PBS."

    You need to do a little homework. First off, the Muppets pre-date Sesame Street – Henson started them in the mid-1950's. Second, the Muppet franchise is owned by Disney – it bought them in 2004. Sesame Workshop puppets are independently owned, having been sold by Henson before the Disney acquisistion. Sesame Workshop retains limited use of the term "Muppets" through a trademark agreement with Disney. Sesame Workshop is an independent entity that pays Jim Henson and Associates to create the puppets for them. The only "crossover Muppet" in the early days was Kermit – mostly due to Jim Henson retaining a creative link to Sesame Street. Not sure if Kermit is still featured on Sesame Street with new skits after 2004 or just in rerun segments.

    Also, Sesame Workshop does not make the toys but sells royalties. (Wanna guess how many of them are made in China??) This is one reason why they only use a small amount of Government funding. Toy commercials are found only on regular TV, not PBS. Could they do it without government monies – probably. But cutting the minute amount of funding that they get would not solve the problem that Mr. Romney claims it will.

    October 9, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  23. dan

    Gotta love it when CNNs comments are half and half. O is done

    October 9, 2012 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. Bill O

    Folks, don't waste your time trying to convince Romney voters on this blogs, you won't convince them.. Instead network with your friends (e.g. facebook and all that), ask them if they are registered, go to the Obama campaign office in your town and volunteer, this is going to be close, but if people pull together they can beat big interests (Adelson, Trump and company...). But if Romney/Ryan make it we are likely to be stuck with them until 2021 (or more, may be 2029 with President Ryan:-( The republicans have a terrible record at governing, but they know how to win campaigns.. Even with a Bush disastrous presidency they managed to get 8 years. This is serious (think supreme court appointments, access to education, potential wars, deregulation of Wall Street... back to square 1...).

    October 9, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  25. josh1010

    This was a stupid mistake from the Democrats... They should have realized this would happen.

    October 9, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
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