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. Thomas

    Romney said he would kill Big Bird , I will take that as a threat .

    I will stand and fight , for our right , toooo save Big Bird !

    October 10, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. GOP is Dead

    2truth hurts

    The Obama administration is VERY CONCERNED about Big Bird and wants to send hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to PBS to fund Big Bird.
    Romney promises to turn out a carrier battle group and a new submarine every year. That would cost hundreds of billions. Of course, like all of Romney's promises he gives no specifics on how to pay for these toys. The Pentagon doesn't even want or need those weapons. Can you smell little pork cooking? Saber-rattling from a "chicken-hawk"?

    October 10, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. Larry L


    I am so tired of Obama not speaking to the issues and talking about what he is going to do for the country. I

    October 10, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. Kevin H

    What exactly is the justification for keeping the ads running when the owners of the big bird image have requested it be taken down? Don't the owners of the image have the right to say how it is used? Guess not in Obama's america.

    October 10, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. Jersey Girl


    Romney used the debate just like an etch-a-sketch. He has been campaining on a five trillion dollar tax cut for two years. Then he turned around and said he never suggested a tax cut of that magnitude and would have not taxes that increased the deficit.
    I agree with you. But he also flip-flopped on numerous other things at the first debate. Yet for some bizarre reason Willard's poll numbers went up! It's crazy. Can't the average smart person realize how hollow-to-the-core with ZERO integrity this guy is? If the president had called him out on all the outright lies Willard was saying, it would have taken another two hours. But the president wanted to remain likeable and not be the sterotypical "angry black guy" and so it backfired on him. Too bad...

    October 10, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. Larry L-


    I am so tired of Obama not speaking to the issues and talking about what he is going to do for the country.
    Romney promises to eliminate the deficit with 5 trillion in cuts, lower everybody's taxes 20%, replace Obamacare with "Romneycare (the same program), build a new naval battle group every year, lower the cost of gasoline, eliminate taxes on interest income and capital gains, and even build a new embassy for Israel (WTF?). He's given absolutely no specifics on how he plans to pay for these things and all economists agree that he'd need to kill Medicare and Social Security to approach the cuts he promises. Since that's a part of the Ryan Plan one must assume Romney would kill those programs. Where are the specifics? What has Romney said that he hasn't flip-flopped on? Wake up Ken!

    October 10, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. HenryMiller

    So the question is whether Big Bird is a contributing member of society or is just another welfare bum living on handouts paid for by extorting money from taxpayers. Just like his (her?) human counterparts, if Big Bird isn't worth enough to society to support himself, why should the taxpayers be stuck paying his bills?

    October 10, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. slotsky

    Big Bird is a BILLIONAIRE. Why are we using government tax dollars to support the Sesame Street (multi-billion dollar) franchise. I agree with Romney on this one. Big Bird sure does not need a government handout. We could use this $$$ elsewhere right now.

    October 10, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. Jersey Girl

    Bobble-head, used care salesman Willard in the running for president! It's crazy! I think even Perry would be a better candidate. People, wake up, you can't be taken in by this shady, secretive, soulless person. America is better than that.

    October 10, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Jersey Girl

    Sorry, I meant to write USED CAR SALESMAN...

    October 10, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. leedecuir

    We know that Romney will do anything to gain the presidency. The man simply has no shame or morals and doesn't care what side of the argument he is on to win, never mind if it is just the opposite side he was espousing the day before.When president showed up to debate i think he was shocked to hear out of Romney,s mouth the exact opposite of what Romney had been saying for the last 18 months of his campaign.How do you prepare to debate someone who comes with an agenda you have never heard before. Some people in this country will vote against their own best interest in order to remove President Obama from office. I do suspect if Obama was not black this race would not even be close It appears that there are those in this country who have not looked beyond their preference to see a President of a different color occupying the white house. Stop hiding behind your own lies. that makes you a no better person than Romney.

    October 10, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. Boytjie


    Obama why are you not letting the military vote?
    Another lie perpetuated! Why not allow all American citizens the same opportunities to cast their vote?

    October 10, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. Meeps

    It doesn't make sense for Obama to use Big Bird in his campaign ads, leave that to the Super PACs. Obama should be telling people that Romney is a liar who constantly changes his lies. Obama needs to focus instead on his own plan for improving America, then point by point talk about why Romney's plan is wrong. I repeat, start with your own plan Obama and then take apart Romney's plan.

    October 10, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. William

    According to the latest Internal Revenue Service Form 990 financial disclosure that Sesame Workshop has made public, its total revenue for 2009 was about $130 million. Of that, about $7.9 million came directly from government grants. Sesame Workshop lists $27 million in content distribution revenue. Some of that comes from federal dollars funneled to local PBS entities. PBS and National Public Radio got about $445 million in 2012 from the federal budget. Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell got $684,144 in reportable compensation from his job. Big Bird does not need one dime of my ever increasing taxes.

    October 10, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Larry in Houston

    LOL – romney just tickles me – now he's changing his position (again) LOL – I guess the romney team is finally figuring out that he simply cannot represent the GOP of old – (such as reagan / bush 1 / bush 2) If romney doesn't change his views to the middle ( at least the middle) he isn't going to make it. That's why his ratings and his poll numbers are getting higher. He's pandering or catering to the people who he's in front of. LOL – I suspect IF he wins, he will reverse roe vs. wade – reverse affordable health care – and a whole list of things will be reversed. The womens issues will be put on the back burner, (if not going to the 1960's way) Here's the deal, if you want Jobs – vote for romney, but if you want all the other issues to modern times, vote for obama. If romney wins, alaska will look like it's in the I.C.U. unit at a local hospital, from an airplane, meaning there will be oil rigs / wells / and drilling everywhere you see. Not to mention that the republicans will end up drilling off of every shoreline, or 40 miles off of every beach around this country. So – the bottom line will be : There will be Jobs, if a repub is elected. (more so, than if a dem is elected)

    October 10, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. Michael

    Bird Show with stimulus money?
    Good way to create jobs-THE OBAMA WAY-

    October 10, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. w l jones

    Just think how many PHDS Big Bird ptoduce in this country from bird watcher to Nuclears scientist in it short life and a certain canidate wont to disband it. Shame on you.

    October 10, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. robert

    Your article states that 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." And then you went on to describe Romney's snarky remarks about the President bringing up Big Bird. BAD JOURNALIST! BAD!!! Go back to Journalism School! You skipped the part where ROMNEY brought up Big Bird in the debates! He mentioned him by name as the target of cuts Romney was willing to make to reduce the deficit. He brought Big Bird into the Presidential race, not the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign would be morons not to capitalize on this ridiculous piece of fiscal policy. Your article gives credence to Romney's implication that President Obama is bringing Big Bird into the campaign, which is a Lie. Ergo, BAD JOURNALIST! Unless that was your intention, in which case, GOOD PARTISAN HACK!

    October 10, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Name

    Wait for him to be president. He is going to send 12 million jobs to china and india.

    October 10, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. jim

    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 |
  21. Guest

    The Big Bird CEO earns 684,000 per yr on our tax dollar.

    October 10, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Jane

    Romney is just bold face lying saying he won't make ANY cuts to anything. Everyone will have everything they need including medicare, increase defense budget, and more! AND we don't increase our country's debt.
    People need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is NOT humanly possible to do ALL these things he's promised.
    All you turned voters for Romney, do you not see he's pulling a wool over your eyes just to get elected?
    Romney doesn't HAVE to keep ANY of his campaign promises once he's put in power as president. Let me REPEAT, ROMNEY DOES NOT HAVE TO KEEP ANY OF HIS CAMPAIGN PROMISES IF HE's ELECTED. Wake up folks, Romney will say anything to get votes, even if it sounds impossible. In fact, he's counting on most of us having adult ADD and forgetting what he's been telling us for 2 years up until last week! I am so furious and agitated hearing Romney on my TV. He's a slimey politician who will say whatever it takes to get Obama out of office. I'm so disgusted with Romney. It's not that I think Obama is so great. But Romney's politics and actions are just deplorable. I won't vote for Romney.

    October 10, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. Beavis

    Obama's a joke and a failure for a president. Toss this Jimmy Carter wannabe out this November!

    October 10, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. Romney=Bush Era Part II

    I'd rather spend my tax money on AMERICAN educational programs like PBS and Sesame Street than wars in foreign countries that will not benefit the US in any way

    OBAMA '12

    October 10, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. treblemaker

    In the words of Winston Churchill (paraphrased, not quoted) when the government wanted to cut funding for the arts in order to have more money for the war effort, he said, "then what the hell are we fighting for?" (or some such manner). Any candidate who would cut PBS funds in the name of fixing the economy is a dangerous candidate! PBS, whether you like it or not, is at the vanguard of the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech and expression. Any removal of funds from them I consider akin to censorship. THAT-is more dangerous than any monetary deficit.

    October 10, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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