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Debate thrusts Big Bird into presidential campaign

October 5, 2012
By DAVID BAUDER , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK - Big Bird has never been so hot.

"Saturday Night Live," Jimmy Fallon, Piers Morgan, the "Today" show and "Good Morning America" all asked for appearances from the "Sesame Street" character on Thursday after he was unexpectedly thrust into the presidential campaign by Mitt Romney.

Sesame Workshop says the giant yellow Muppet is declining all appearances, but there was this tweet from Big Bird on the Sesame Street account: "My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?"

Article Photos

AP PHOTO
This Aug. 30, 2009 file photo shows Big Bird, of the children's television show Sesame Street, in Los Angeles. Big Bird is endangered. Jim Lehrer lost control. And Mitt Romney crushed President Barack Obama. Those were the judgments rendered across Twitter and Facebook Wednesday during the first debate of the 2012 presidential contest.

Yes, Bird. During Wednesday's debate with President Barack Obama, Romney called for cutting federal funding to PBS, despite saying, "I love Big Bird." It renewed a long-running debate over subsidies to public broadcasting.

"I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," the former Massachusetts governor, a Republican, said during a deficit-cutting discussion. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too, Jim (Lehrer, PBS newsman and debate moderator). But I'm not going to ... keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

Obama brought up his opponent's plans for Big Bird during a campaign stop Thursday in Madison, Wis.

"I just want to make sure I've got this straight: He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on 'Sesame Street,'" Obama said of Romney. "Thank goodness somebody's finally cracking down on Big Bird! Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits! Elmo's got to watch out!"

PBS chief Paula Kerger said she "just about fell off the sofa" when the issue suddenly came up during the debate. She said that if the subsidy goes, so will some PBS stations.

Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting totals $450 million this year, accounting for about 15 percent of the CPB's budget, she said. Federal money supplements the budgets of PBS' 179 stations nationally. For some of the smaller stations in rural areas, this subsidy accounts for more than half of their yearly budget, so many can't operate without it.

Considering Romney stressed the importance of education, she said she hopes he realizes the extent of educational programming that PBS offers. Four out of five children under age 5 watch public television, where "Sesame Street" is a long-running hit, she said.

 
 

 

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