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. mrpopular

    Big Bird is no Sacred Cow.

    October 9, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    The Gallupoll has Obama ahead... Go look! And you Robme supporters are fools. Robme is a big liar and so is his way at lyin'Ryan
    And I say this post is brought to Robme by the letters F & U

    October 9, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. fableanne

    Like Romney said, if we have to borrow money from China to function the bird will have to go.Seems like the Obama camp doesn't want to talk about the deficit, nor unemployment, our debt, as a matter of fact Obama didn't even know what our debt is, as indicated on the David Letterman show.

    October 9, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Dez

    The reason Big Bird got so much attention after the debates is because not only is threatening to cut funding to a beloved show (and character of said show) a not too bright thing to say on national tv but because it's the only true statement that came out of Romney's mouth. The rest of Romneys debate was full of lies, double talk, flip flops, no substance and very few specifics. And since his campaign refuses to be dictated by fact-checkers then you might as well talk about the only thing the man said that he actually believes in. Laying off Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street gang.

    October 9, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. Edmund

    If you like Big Bird give the money you intended to donate to the Obama campaign to PBS.

    October 9, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. LIP

    Mitt is right...the public can do this type of funding through doesn't need to be our tax dollars...too many hands extended for everything on earth and it is time it stopped.

    October 9, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. Guest

    You know it's bad for Obama when, even facing the possibility of losing his paycheck....Big Bird doesnt want to be on your team!!

    October 9, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. judy

    oh brother like mittens is so concerned with the middle class. Are we now being unwritten off?? At least untill aftre the election. Forward.

    October 9, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. cjb

    To Reality: I guess you are now finally admitting that this President can't fix anything. Good, step aside and let a man who can and he'll do it by stop funding something that doesn't even need funding. The president of PBS makes $626,000 a year. Do you really think they need more money? The money is better spent helping those who lost their homes, living on food stamps and have no job. Kharma is a *B* Reality, I hope you don't get a taste of it.

    October 9, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  10. Amelia

    I'm surprised at Sesame Street's response to the ad. It's very BIG of Big Bird...

    October 9, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. OrionStyles


    Too bad...

    October 9, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. standright

    Big Bird will survive. PBS will see either advertisements or will cut through attrition. Jim Lehrer and team are all ready to retire anyway. Cut out Lehrer news hour when he retires, cut out 25 year old re-runs of reading rainbow..and you're set for the long time. Big Bird can grow old.

    October 9, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. Lisa P


    Cutting funding to PBS is a start and not the only thing Romney is suggesting we look at cutting. If it's a dollar saved, it's a dollar earned. Trim the fat and make a priority to identify what we need versus what we want. There's a difference and it's all the difference in making the unpopular choices that add up to a sense of frugality that has been laking in Washington for too long.
    October 9, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm
    Of course the problem with the dollar saved/dollar earned analogy is that it assumes that the person who saves/earns the dollar also gets to keep the dollar, one way or another. In this case Mitt Romney is proposing to slaughter Big Bird and feed him to the military. Kids and people who love the arts, science, and in-depth news reporting will "earn" the dollar, and then the military will waste it on over-paid contractors, over-budget weapons systems and antiquated defense strategies. That's not a good use of the dollars we earn - that's just robbing Peter to pay Paul. Why don't you sic Ben Franklin on the parts of the government that could use his advice, for a change?

    October 9, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  14. Ed

    Typical liberal big government approach. When you can't close the budget gap. you announce cuts to needed programs like police and firemen rather than cut waste. Oh, you want police, we'll have to raise taxes. It's not the money, PBS doesn't get that much - it's become a symbol of all the money wasted by both parties to get reelected.

    PBS doesn't have to cut Big Bird (Sesame Street) they can cut some of their other waste such as half of the 7 PBS stations in Pennsylvania (plus the 9 that overlap PA in neighboring states) that duplicate programs. They could stop showing reruns of Lawrence Welk and keep Sesame Street. Maybe stop buying so many expensive imports from the BBC. Maybe shut down from midnight to 6AM to reduce operating costs. Their on cable and dish, why can't they charge for that - fifty cents or a dollar per customer each month?

    You also have to wonder how many of the celebrities and pro-PBS people are actually members of PBS. How many put their money where their mouths are?

    October 9, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Stop the hate

    Wow, wake up people! He said he would cut the funding of programs LIKE PBS. He did not say just PBS or only PBS. I believe he said he would cut funding for anything that can stand on it's own or if we need to borrow money for it....Mr Obama keep running on this theme, but do yourself a favor make sure you have some where to live on Jan 20, 2013

    October 9, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  16. Dave S in Calgary

    You americans are funny people, you gave the dumbist human ever and a dick weed as second in command 8 years to destroy your economy,reputation,work force and start wars, but yet you want Mr. Obama to fix this in just four years.
    Come on folks even if Romney were to win he would not be able to do all the bull that he has stated, hence the term blowing smoke up your@#@

    October 9, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. Stop the hate

    Since big bird gets his salary from the federal govt I believe it is illegal for him to endorse a candidate

    October 9, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. truth hurts

    Not sure why the leftists like Big Bird so much. He makes enough to put him in the 1%! And probably near the top of the 1%!! Lefties always screaming about oil company subsidies but they are OK with a government welfare check for a Billion Dollar Bird! I saw cut them all off. Increase your royalty percentage to make up for the loss of the government money!

    October 9, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. ritmocojo

    The prez gives us the head of Osama Bin Laden while the prez-wannabe brings us Big Bird's head.

    October 9, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  20. Someonewithasenseofhumor

    I think its funny and they are trying to use levity to communicate the priorities of Romney. Reminds me of a skit they might do on the Daily Show. Trolls in this site are funnier though... yeah- I am SURE you were going to vote Obama until the debate. PAH LEASE.

    October 9, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Robert

    You really can't make this stuff up. Romney brings up PBS funding specifically in the presidential debates. And his team is now pretending to be "troubled" and crying foul by Obama referring to it in commercials. Maybe we should just clarify things before the next debate. Are there any other subjects that the Republicans can bring up during the debate that are then off limits for discussion as soon as the debate is over?!?!?!

    As a voter, I should be troubled by the fact that Romney offered to cut public television funding as a serious attempt to balance the budget. Reality check for Romney, how is cutting out 450 million dollars out of the budget going to do anything for balancing a trillion dollar budget. You should be ridiculed for offering up such inconsequential fixes. Well, at least I have to give you credit for being specific about something... too bad the one thing he are specific about was such a flop.

    Budget concerns aside, is it really wise to weaken a media outlet that is not subject to the approval of sponsors and CEOs. Perhaps in the Republican eyes it is, I can't speak for them. Personally, I prefer my news not to run through the corporate filter and to actually further the national dialogue, which is MUCH more than I can for FOX, CBS, NBC, CNN etc etc

    October 9, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. lardoggy

    First it was AARP,now its Big Bird,somebody is not getting much love here.

    October 9, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. Enough is Enough

    If Obama could run on his record he need to do this.

    October 9, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Lee Hansen

    Forbes Magazine September 2012 Sesame Street brings in over $500 million in licensing every year! Over half a billion dollars. Big Bird is the 1%. He and his friends, Elmo, Oscar and company are worth more than Mitt. Let PBS redistribute their wealth before they start asking tax payers to subsides Sesame Street. I love Sesame Street, but it is a commercial franchise probably worth more the Seinfeld ever will be. Stop feeling sorry for the Bird

    October 9, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  25. Guest

    ritmocojo – I heard he led the raid himself after telling the SEAL team to step aside....Biden confirmed that story too so it must be true!?

    October 9, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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