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‘Sesame Street’ to Obama: Pull the Ad

‘Sesame Street’ to Obama: Pull the Ad Andrew H. Walker

Says it doesn’t take part in campaigns.

Sesame Street’s letters of the day are T-A-K-E I-T D-O-W-N, O-B-A-M-A. After the president’s campaign used Big Bird to mock Romney in a new ad, Sesame Street asked Obama to pull the spot. In a statement on its blog, Sesame Street said that it doesn’t participate in political campaigns. “We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down,” the blog post read. The ad cast Romney as the only soul brave enough to fight Big Bird, an “evil genius” that was not only big and yellow, but a menace to our economy.

Read it at Sesame Workshop

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Political Football

Big Bird’s Big Gay Love Story

What if Obama and Romney knew the first Big Bird was created by a loving gay couple? Michael Daly reports.

Word that the first presidential debate had made Big Bird a factor in the election reached the puppet’s sole surviving creator at his new home in New Zealand.


Bird Bird and his creator, Kermit Love. (AP Photo)

“Amazing,” says Christopher Lyall, who assisted the late Kermit Love in producing the first Big Bird, as well as the successors for decades afterward.

Lyall says of the present electoral process in general, “It’s very frustrating having to observe the political games and the lies.”

Lyall and Love were partners in work and life for half a century and in the 1980s traveled with Big Bird to the White House for the annual Easter egg roll. The most momentous results of that presidential nexus were the grass stains on Big Bird’s outsize feet. Nobody could have imagined that this puppet might someday play even the smallest role in deciding who would occupy the Oval Office.

“We’ll see,” Lyall says.

The possible political impact of this 8-foot-2 yellow plumed character takes a turn from the ridiculous to the delightfully apt when you consider this: Big Bird was the product of a profound partnership between two men that was in every way a marriage save for in the strictly legal sense that the law until very recently forbade.

“Where he was, I was,” Lyall says.

He’ll Be Fine

Get Big Bird Off Welfare!

The Sesame Street gang could easily survive without federal assistance—as could all public television and radio. Michael Medved debunks the bogus idea that Romney would kill Big Bird.

No, Mitt Romney doesn’t want to kill Big Bird.

But he did find the gumption to suggest that this rich and famous figure of flightless fancy should continue his (its?) dazzling success without depending on federal welfare.

Romney 2012

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Democrats have seized on the Big Bird controversy in a desperate attempt to find some aspect of Romney’s impressive performance in the first debate to turn against him. Republicans now fully expect that Obama rallies will frequently feature visitors dressed as Big Bird or Elmo carrying plaintive signs pleading, “Please Don’t Kill Me, Mr. Romney!”

In fact, the mommy (or at least godmother) of those beloved characters has assured the world that talk of budget cuts at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting represent no threat at all to Big Bird, Elmo, and associates. Even before the latest flurry of concern raised by the Denver debate, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Sesame Workshop, told Soledad O’Brien of CNN: “Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS. So we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So, quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to trot out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird—that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here … Big Bird lives on!”

Of course, the phrase “killing Big Bird” never appeared in the transcript of the Romney–Obama debate, any more than the GOP candidate ever mentioned the word “moochers” in his infamous (and now totally repudiated) May comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes. What Romney suggested in Denver simply repeated a point he’s been making for more than a year: that responsible White House leadership requires major cuts to inessential federal programs. The nominee has never equivocated on his pledge to review every significant government expenditure by posing an uncomfortable question: is this project so important that it’s worth borrowing more money from China in order to pay for it?

In the case of PBS, the answer ought to be an obvious no. Only a tiny proportion of the cost of operating the nation’s elaborate system of public broadcasting (with more than 350 independent stations across the country) comes from federal funding. The $445 million appropriated by Congress for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2012 amounts to less than 18 percent of the estimated budget for the whole of America’s system of public TV and radio. In the case of the hugely popular Sesame Workshop, for instance, less than 8 percent of the yearly budget of $170 million comes from governmental sources, with the great bulk supplied by licensing agreements that produce toys and games and stuffed animals featuring all those beloved characters.

In general, public broadcasting survives because of listener support (who hasn’t suffered through those tedious pledge drives?), grants from charitable foundations and, above all, corporate underwriting. When a major company has the right to announce, “This program made possible by a grant from the Acme Widget Corporation—making wonderful widgets for the new millennium,” it’s worth serious bucks if the sponsored show has found an eager audience.

Follow That Bird

Big Bird Gets Political

‘Sesame Street’s cherished towering Muppet got dragged into the presidential election—but where does he stand on the issues? Kevin Fallon breaks down Big Bird’s political leanings.

Big Bird may not wear his politics on his sleeve like some other children’s television show stars—we’re looking at you, Dora—but he certainly hasn’t been quiet on the issues in his 43 years on Sesame Street. The yellow fowl jumped into the presidential race on Wednesday night when Mitt Romney said he would slash funding for Sesame Street’s network, PBS, but insisted he “loved Big Bird,” but he wasn’t willing to “borrow money from China” to keep PBS running.

Debate Social Media

This file photo shows Big Bird, of the children's television show Sesame Street, on Aug. 30, 2009 in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles / AP Photo)

Immediately after Romney’s comments, Twitter exploded with an inferno of backlash, jokes, and memes in support of the cherished children’s program and its towering flavicomous star. The result? After a 90-minute debate that covered health care, jobs, taxes, and education, the watercooler Thursday is instead buzzing about Big Bird—and a fake attack ad has already gone viral. But does he really have a place in the political conversation? Here, all you need to know about Big Bird and politics.

Since when has Big Bird been political?

He may not have run for office or ever endorsed a candidate, but Big Bird wears his political inclinations as obviously as, well, neon-colored feathers. For one, he’s concerned about the state of the health-care system, which is evident to anyone who views this clip of his visit to the hospital.

For a bird, Big Bird boasts an admirable amount of foreign-relations experience, having embarked on goodwill trips to both China and Japan.


PBS Slams Big Bird Comment

PBS Slams Big Bird Comment AP Photos (2)

“Disappointed” in the candidate’s views.

Don't mess with PBS. The public broadcaster is calling  Romney's debate-night promise to end subsidies to the Sesame Street network "disappointing" and proof he “does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers.” The network also pointed out that PBS’s subsidies amount only to about 1/100th of 1 percent of the federal government’s budget—or about $1.35 per person annually. Kids, can you spell negligible?

Read it at The Wall Street Journal

Debate Reaction

The Best Big Bird Tweets

Mitt Romney said during the presidential debate that he “loves” Big Bird—despite his threat to cut PBS’s budget. The GOP nominee’s remark lit up the Twitterverse afterward, and The Daily Beast gathered the best of the tweets.

This may go down in history as the Big Bird debate. Just minutes after Mitt Romney’s “I love Big Bird!” comment, the yellow bird was Twitter’s man of the hour. Parody accounts and tweets spread like wildfire, furiously rallying behind the bird, whom Romney threatened to put out of a job by cutting government subsidies for PBS. While we wait to see which morning show gets a Sesame Street character to guest star first, here are the best tweets from and about the beloved yellow bird.

Big Bird kicked off the first of many accounts with this straightforward post.

Turns out Big Bird had a night job before landing a starring role on Sesame Street. Kids, avert your eyes.

Apparently ABC’s senior Washington editor, Rick Klein, took the initiative to call up Big Bird’s representative and got this straight-faced answer.

Sounds like a pretty easy kid.

After a heartless tweet about President Obama’s deceased grandma, this Twitter user might be pointing Big Bird in the right direction.

Journalist Nick Kristof had a celebratory meal option for the Romneys. Sounds disturbingly like a recent murder case.

Clint Eastwood’s invisible Obama chair + Romney’s discarded Big Bird = pure magic. The two Twitter accounts bonded.

Debate Flashpoint

Who’d Kill Big Bird?

Mitt Romney said he loves Big Bird but threatened cuts to PBS at Wednesday’s debate. Watch video of more of Jim Henson’s creatures gone political, from a Muppet foray into the Chick-fil-A gay-marriage war to their campaign against childhood hunger.

Can you tell me how to get to Activism Street? Mitt Romney said at Wednesday’s debate that he “loves Big Bird” but he’s not willing to “borrow from China” to subsidize Sesame Street’s network, PBS. It's not the first time a Muppet has entered the national debate on a key issue. Here’s a look back at notable Muppet activism.

Romney: ‘I Love Big Bird’

Is Snuffleupagus safe? The Republican presidential nominee vowed to make good on his campaign promise to defund PBS—even though he admitted his fondness for the Muppets. “I’m sorry, Jim,” Romney told the Denver debate moderator, PBS’s Jim Lehrer. “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.” Romney’s comment immediately went viral, with tweets flying about “killing Big Bird.” Romney must have a fondness for the yellow bird—he mentioned Big Bird at a campaign event in December, when he promised not to kill the bird but said his show needed to start selling ad time. Looks like Romney wants capitalism to be the next lesson on Sesame Street.

Childhood Hunger

Not every Sesame Street character has an unlimited supply of cookies. In October 2011, the show introduced Lily, an impoverished Muppet who starred in a one-hour primetime special about childhood hunger. “Sometimes I go with my family to the food pantry,” Lily tells Elmo, unsettling the furry red monster. “Elmo never has to think about where his next meal is coming from,” he responds. The special, which was sponsored by Walmart, aimed to raise awareness of hunger issues and food insecurity in the United States, where 17 million children have limited access to food.

Healthy School Lunches


Illustration by Mike Munoz / The Daily Beast

Obama Approves This Message

Yes, they went there. In this new campaign ad, Obama's camp attempts to join in on the Big Bird fun: With Mitt Romney, they say, it's not Wall Street you have to worry about, it's Sesame Street.

Look Out, Big Bird!

We all know Romney likes firing people, but is he willing to spare Muppets? In tonight's debate, the GOP candidate told debate moderator and PBS host Jim Lehrer that he wants to slash the federal government's subsidy to PBS, but assured: “I love Big Bird! I actually like you too!”


Occupy Sesame Street

Seven Unemployed Big Bird Memes

Seven Unemployed Big Bird Memes

Forget Obama. Big Bird was the real loser in Denver after Romney threatened to slash PBS subsidies.

Big Bird Visits Seth Meyers on 'SNL'

After Mitt Romney said he would cut the federal subsidy to PBS in Wednesday's debate, Big Bird stopped by 'Weekend Update' to reply—but didn't want to make any political statements. 'I don't want to ruffle any feathers,' the Bird said.

Debate Recap

Best Moments

7 Must-See Moments From the Debate

7 Must-See Moments From the Debate

President Obama and Mitt Romney duked it out on the economy, Obamacare, and Big Bird in the first presidential debate Wednesday night—and pundits are handing the victory to Romney.

Romney vs. 'Sesame Street'

What about Big Bird? While speaking on the federal budget, GOP candidate Mitt Romney made it clear that he thought non-profit kids shows like 'Sesame Street' need to start paying for themselves by selling ad time.