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. john

    If Mitt would put his money in us not Swiss and cayman island hideaways the US Gov. would have money for PBS and Big Bird

    October 9, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. DENNA

    Hey, Mittens started it. If he becomes president, Big Bird may find his nest fleeced. I have noticed that the GOP seem to think that Public Television is a waste of money. It is not. Many children, my own included, have learned much from the characters of Sesame Street. I hope the creators of Sesame Street don't make a big mistake in defending Mittens,

    October 9, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. JC

    Its really sad to see a sitting President that is so void of any ideas with such a deplorable record sink to an attack only campaign. Sadder yet is all the people who still support him, though that number is shrinking by the day. Clint Eastwood had him pegged.

    October 9, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Hillcrester

    Eliminating Federal support for PBS/NPR would not end the national broadcasts that the conservatives detest but probably would elimibate 30-40 small, mostly rural public television stations, most of them in red states where children have limited access to pre-school but prepare for kindergarten from watching Sesame Street and other enriching programs. Is the GOP that desperate to keep its next recruiting classes uneducated?

    October 9, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. sqeptiq

    Romney team can't handle the heat so they should stay out of the kitchen.

    October 9, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. A Bit Askew


    he simply said to jim lehr, of pbs..if we cant pay for it out of cash we are NOT going to borrow from China....simple

    The problem with that statement is: we're borrowing money for things that the President wants to cut, but those are the things Mittens says we "need" in order to be safe and secure.. like bigger guns, more troops, etc... we're borrowing money for it, but that, that's not mentioned.

    October 9, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. joebob

    first AARP and now Big Bird! everyone trying to distance themselves from failure in chief! lol And for people who are asking romney to release his taxes he did his 2011 so thats pretty current keep on and it will be even more embarrasing for your lil angry president to grasp a hold of. Just because he pays more in charity than obamas family makes doesn't mean hes a bad person!

    October 9, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Gailyblue

    People get out of control. Obama twisted words and ran with it. Sesame Street will stay on air. Good grief people!! And Romney is NOT looking to give the rich tax breaks. He said they would stay the same! I am all for the rich paying their taxes. Just because he is successful does not mean he is for the rich. Wake up people.

    October 9, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Thomas

    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. Further, the Muppets' fame is directly attributable to Sesame Street, a PBS franchise as well. Big Bird and PBS being on the government dole is no less offensive than the Lotto winner being on food stamps. Shame on Sesame Street for taking tax dollars. What's next, food stamps for Miss Piggy or WIC for the Cookie Monster? Maybe an Obama-phone for the Count?


    If only Big Bird was part of the Mormon Church , Big Bird is a Religion , not a cult !

    October 9, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Michael

    Whenever a government restricts the message (or kills the messenger) because the message is not to the government's liking, that is Fascism. The GOP wants to defund NPR because the message can not be controlled; now, they want to defund PBS. Maybe the GOP doesn't want children interested in the world around them. It reminds me of the 1984 Apple commercial. Without an informed and engaged populace, Big Brother shall run rampant over We The People and shred what freedoms we have left. Just my $0.02 worth ...

    October 9, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. glenn

    O just got "the bird", just saying.

    October 9, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Bermille

    Sorry Big Bird, Romney brought you up first. To me Romney's words were far more troubling.

    October 9, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. jrl1234

    Both Sesame street and AARP have asked the Obama campaign to stop using them as propaganda tools.

    October 9, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. The Realist

    If eliminating PBS includes ending both Sesame Street and the incessant Israeli PR, then good riddance.

    October 9, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. ameri2010

    The government isn't restricting the message you big ninny. Get your facts straight. The government, on the other hand, has no business funding certain programs when we're borrowing massive amounts of money from China as it is. What part of "sinking ship" don't you get? Mayday has long passed. We're in serious trouble and need all the help we can get.

    October 9, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Oh JC your such a fraud. The president is so devoid of ideas, but yet you guys hate everything he's done. Is it that he has no ideas or you just hate his ideas. If his campaign is an attack only campaign, what would you call Romney's campaign? I mean you people are such frauds. You'll will say just about anything, and have the nerve to wonder why people my be skeptical. I happen to like things like healthcare, killing bin laden, and regulating the financial sector. You don't like those things, thats your perogative, but don't sit here and say its sad that people support the president. You're sad. If you can't talk about policy, just keep your mouth shut.

    October 9, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Planner922

    The GOP detests the PBS because it was created and exists because it is not beholden to Corporate sponsors for life! It does not depend on commercials so it is contrary to control by Business.
    It is NOT controlled by BUSINESS. That's the problem for the Republicans.

    October 9, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. JM

    Let's see a subsidy in the hundreds of millions to a Public Broadcasting Channel that profits to the tune of $200 million AND pays its CEO over $1 million a year, hhmmm not even worth a second thought – cut the subsidy. To those that argue cutting the PBS subsidy is like a raindrop in the ocean, I have heard this over and over again from both sides for many years now. Apparently there is no funding large enough to make a difference so why cut anything at all. Well you have to start somewhere and a dozen PBS type cuts adds up very, very fast (to the tune of 2.4 billion+).

    October 9, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Thomas

    Why don't we borrow money from China to build a new super aircraft carrier, we could name the ship Big Bird !

    Then the GOP and all the corporate military industrial zombies will feel better !

    The USS Big Bird launches air assault on Iran , live on Fox News !

    October 9, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. lissa7

    Astounding – Big Bird, Sesame Street, PBS – they aren't even ISSUES! There was an Ambassador killed on this president's watch, but Libya hasn't been in his stump speeches as much as Big Bird has. Wait – he hasn't mentioned Libya at all! Priorities, folks, you're all talking about the small stuff because the president is. Widen your horizons, this is about how far down the country has fallen in 4 years and the cliff it would fall over if there is a 2nd term. Listen to the REAL issues.

    “If You Don’t Have A Record To Run On, Then You Paint Your Opponent As Someone People Should Run From. You Make A Big Election About Small Things.” (Senator Barack Obama, Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, Denver, CO, 8/28/08)

    (easier said than done..?)

    October 9, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. scott

    ITs patheic how low Obama has sunk. With nothing to run on people deserting him in mass.

    October 9, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. jtroseberry

    @ DENNA (and everyone else on this ridiculous band wagon...)
    It's your kids that will be paying over 16 TRILLION in debt. That's what the GOP is concerned about.
    And you should be too.

    October 9, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Harvesting

    Who made more money then Romney and Obama combined, paid 0 in taxes as a non profit, at the sametime getting additional money from the Federal government. It is PBS, just were does all that tickle me Elmo go? Some say it goes back into programming. IF that is the case then why do they need ANY money from the federal government?

    October 9, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. tonyw

    The litmus test he used is, should the government borrow money to pay for big bird, or etc..... Because, right now it does!

    October 9, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |

    Why insult Big Bird by associating him with the likes of romney. BB is a tad bit smarter.

    October 9, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
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