Big Bird flies from campaign trail to White House
February 21st, 2013
11:22 AM ET
10 years ago

Big Bird flies from campaign trail to White House

Washington (CNN) - Four months after becoming a flashpoint in the presidential campaign, Big Bird is back in the political spotlight.

The White House announced Thursday that the longtime character from public television's "Sesame Street" teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to film two public service announcements that encourage kids to eat healthy and get active. The White House said the PSAs will help mark the third anniversary of the first lady's push "to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential."

One of the PSAs shows Big Bird opting for a healthy snack as he and the first lady hang out in the White House kitchen.

The other one takes place in the East Room, with Big Bird exercising and dancing.

Flashback to October, when Big Bird was front and center on the campaign trail as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney battled for the White House. It all started in Denver, Colorado on October 4, during the first presidential 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.

"I like PBS, I love Big Bird," Romney said before adding that "I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."

Obama pounced on the remark at a campaign stop in Colorado a day later.

"Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It's about time," Obama said. "We didn't know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit, but that's what we heard last night. How about that?"

A few days later the president's re-election campaign put Big Bird in a TV ad, sarcastically casting him as a corporate fiend akin to Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay.

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

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

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

Responding to the ad, Romney said at a campaign rally in Iowa that Obama's focus on the remark was puzzling given the serious issues facing the nation.

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

Big Bird's appearance in the Obama campaign spot spurred the character's parents at Sesame Workshop to ask the president's team to take the ad down.

"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."

Filed under: Michelle Obama • White House
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Malory Archer wrote:

    This is more about encouraging Americans to think about what they're consuming than depriving them of a bathtub size drink that they probably wouldn't buy if the price per ounce was the same for all sizes. .. ...
    You should see the convincing TV ads that they are running. Two people are sitting at a table in what seems to be your typical fast food burger joint. One person is drinking soda from a 16oz bottle, wile the other is "drinking" 20 sugar packets with their burger and fries. The ad points out the equivalent sugar content and asks why would you drink twenty packets of sugar.

    February 21, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Blaggo

    I'm all for Michelle's efforts. What I am not for is her husbands approach, ignore the need for jobs in this country and starve us all to death. Or at least gut us under government control.

    February 21, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @ Rudy NYC


    February 21, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. WiredWeirdinSF

    Is she back from her multimillion dollar trip to Aspen that the taxpayers paid for. Where will she spend our money next. At least she didn't vow in one of the campaign speeches not to rest until the economy improves and then take 62 vacation days like the lying goofball she married. She does not even make a pretense of being frugal and concerned about those of us who have to work and pay taxes.

    February 21, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. Alina77

    Non of my kids grow up watching Big bird, they couldn't stand it... Though I wasn't Ok with the politicians taking on Big bird, I am totally Ok now...

    February 21, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    No, you have it all twisted. See my earlier post. When President Obama took office in 2009, our economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Then shortly after taking office, the President took to congress and put into motion the American Recovery Act which saved and created over 5 million American jobs. Then as our economy continue to struggle on the global stage and more Americans were being layed off, the President went to congress again and asked for passage of the 2010 Tax Relief/Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation bill which guaranteed an additional year of unemployment and health insurance benefits to millions of unemployed and struggling Americans so that they could keep food on the table and a roof over their families heads while they looked for work. But the republicans stepped in the way and accused the President of wasteful spending and of inflating the national debt. Let's face it, you cannot accused the President of not creating jobs and of not helping the American people and then turn around and blame him for creating jobs and helping the American people. Its either or. Please STOP the blatant hyopocrisy.

    February 21, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Clown

    Doh, and here I thought mitt was back in the spot light somehow.

    February 21, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    WiredWeirdinSF asked:

    Is she back from her multimillion dollar trip to Aspen that the taxpayers paid for.. ... ..At least she didn't vow in one of the campaign speeches not to rest until the economy improves and then take 62 vacation days like the lying goofball she married.
    Nope, becasue she never left on a multimillion dollar trip to Aspen that the taxpayers paid for. Furthermore, your right wing sources are making you do extra minutes in your hamster cage because the POTUS only took 62 vacation days during his entire term, not in a sngle year, which is nothing compared to the 180+ George W. Bush took during his first four years.

    Remember how it was such an issue that Bush actually had to make a campaign promise during his re-election run to take less vacation time.

    February 21, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Then there was the 2011 American Jobs Act which House and Senate republicans fillibuster, arguing that it wouldn't work. However, both the CBO and several independent economists said the 2011 American Jobs Act would have created 1.9 million American jobs right away. Reminds me of the 2011 Debt Ceiling Compromise. After it was passed with bi-partisan support, Eric Cantor and House republicans got into a scuffle with Paul Ryan, arguing that republicans support for the debt ceiling may have gotten the President re-elected. So that has been the right wing's motto from the get-go, stall progress and hurt the American people to ensure that the President fails. Totall appalling and outrageous.

    February 21, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. Linda Luttrell

    Welcome back, Big Bird! Knew Mittens could not get you down!

    February 21, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. lex

    Big bird and its sesame street character friends are one big 1%er industrial complex. They may want to look non-proofit, but there is a l ot of money being made. The sesame Street industrial complex could probably support PBS on its own if its revenues went to PBS.

    February 21, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Larry L

    @Ancient Texan

    Blah Blah-, This president has NEVER attempted to have bipartisan agreement on anything. Insulting the other party before saying let's compromise is not being bipartisan.
    It wasn't the Democrats (or the President) who filibustered every action – including their own proposals! Democrats didn't start holding America hostage at every critical decision point related to our economic future. Democrats didn't start two un-funded wars, cut taxes AND spend wildly. It was a Republican who gave us the recession and Republicans who blocked all progress towards a recovery. As usual, you are completely delusional and incapable of manning-up to any responsibility for our problems. I'll bet you continue to vote for Rick Perry... and act that says it all...

    February 21, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Larry L

    @Ancient Texan

    Blah Blah-, This president has NEVER attempted to have bipartisan agreement on anything. Insulting the other party before saying let's compromise is not being bipartisan.
    I know what you mean when you mention "insulting the other party". The President makes absolutely no attempt to stop being African American – even when he knows how much that situation continues to infuriate the right-wingers! He's just not trying!

    February 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  14. Michael

    Sesame Street would be a good gig for Soledad O'Brien to step into now that she has been passed over at CNN. Just about her speed. Make her wear the Big Bird suit and don't let her speak.

    February 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. I'm Borderless and Brainless

    Yep, I'm ashamed had to change my name after Mitt lost to post.

    February 21, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Hogan's Goat

    I love how Romney accused Obama of being obsessed by Big Bird, after Romney claimed Big Bird was a drain on our taxes. Romney really had his finger on the pulse of the brain-dead voter, and no one else.

    February 21, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. Ol' Lefty

    It's a wonder the GOP is becoming even less relevant by the day.

    February 21, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Romney is Still NOT My Hero


    Most Republicans don't let their children watch Sesame Street. Too liberal. After all, who the heck teaches their children to be kind to others, to learn in school, to help the world be a better place? Generally just communists. Good Republicans teach their children to be tough, go to church instead of watching football, and drink lots of beer.

    I agree. They only allow their kiddies to watch Faux News Channel. Plus, they don't understand why Sesame street has to have so many different colors. Why not just choose pasty white with blonde hair? Now that's good TV.

    February 21, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
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