Fact check: Will Romney send Big Bird to the unemployment line?
October 4th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

Fact check: Will Romney send Big Bird to the unemployment line?

Mitt Romney said that he loves Big Bird but that the "Sesame Street" resident is not important enough for America to go into debt with China to subsidize him and his PBS friends. Does this mean our feathered friend could lose his job under a Romney administration? Would he then become a drain on our society? Are there retraining opportunities to become a St. Louis Cardinal or Baltimore Oriole? What family does Big Bird have? Who the heck is this yellow thing?

How likely is it that Big Bird gets the pink slip?

Our yellow feathered friend may be hoping he'll be able to mind his Ps and Qs on "Sesame Street" but might be feeling a little worried about his bills while the cloud of losing his job hangs over his head. How likely is it?

Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street," says on its website that 93% of production costs for the show are covered by licensing activities or corporate sponsorships, CNNMoney.com reports.

But Children's Television Workshop, which helps produce "Sesame Street," gets a decent number of grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here are the numbers for those ready to count with the Count: In 2009, it received $2.5 million in total. In 2010, a federal Ready to Learn grant, which helps put on educational TV shows, provided about $1.5 million, and the overall digital presence for "Sesame Street" and friends got $8 million to help spread educational messages and games online in 2011.

So maybe Big Bird should be taking this seriously. Even if most of the funding goes to his friends, a change in funding might put them out of work too if Romney were to go through with his idea to cut subsides to PBS. And that doesn't sound like it'd help all the people in his neighborhood.

It isn't the first time Big Bird has found himself in the middle of a national budget debate.

Last year, he survived a brush with budget-cut-hungry Republicans in the House, who voted to slash funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, only to see it added back into the final government funding deal.

What happens to Big Bird's health insurance if he gets axed?

If our "Sesame Street" friend did join the 12.5 million Americans who are unemployed, his joyful tone may switch to a sad rendition of "Can you tell me how to get to the unemployment line?"

There's good news and bad news for Big Bird. It appears if he loses his job, he doesn't have many dependent family members, so while health insurance may be an issue, he won't have any kids or family members to support. Phew. He may try to give a shout to his Granny Bird and Nani Bird (his aunt), who helped raise him, for a little extra cash, though. (We’ve heard that idea before.)

On the upside, Big Bird still has plenty of time ahead of him – well, depending on which “official record” you use.

His boss swears he’s 6 years old, but we’re a little wary. That bird has been flocking around TV for ages, 40 years to be exact. And unless he’s a Benjamin Button bird, he’s got a lot of explaining to do. It seems like we may need to stop and ask Mr. Bird for his official paperwork. But that’s a different debate.

For now, we’ll take the bird at his word.

At 6 years old, he'll have some time to refocus and perhaps try to get an education to bolster his options when he looks for work again. After all, we know Big Bird is good with children, so surely he can handle some rowdy sports fans, right?

Who’s to say he can’t get a degree and find a new home away from Sesame Street, and if he doesn’t have to deal with mountains of school debt, he should be able to afford to move to, say, Baltimore or St. Louis to help rally fans around the Orioles or Cardinals.

Let’s just hope he’s OK with dyeing his feathers a different color. (We aren’t sure whether his new health insurance plan would cover that.)

And while health care may always be an issue (hey, you never know about avian flu), the good news is, he has plenty of time to wait and see whether he'll have to be worried about Medicare down the line.

Would Big Bird outsource himself instead?

Sometimes you can debate whether tax breaks for going overseas are good. But for Big Bird, the temptation might be there, if nothing else than to frustrate Romney after his dig.

Big Bird, whose "Sesame Street" owners said he went to sleep early Wednesday night and wondered whether he'd "missed anything last night,” may even be on the phone right now with his cousin Da Niao in China.

Romney said he'd want to cut subsidies to PBS because he's "not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

That may have been a big blow to the yellow feathered friend, because Big Bird shares a special love for China.

Big Bird went to China after he was inspired by a scroll in Chinatown in the first international special based on "Sesame Street." Besides being fascinated by the culture, he thought it'd be great for the two countries to have a good working relationship; there's so much they could learn from each other.

"Everyone in America wants to know about China, right? What a great thing it would be if a great big American bird went to meet the beautiful Chinese bird," Big Bird said. "I mean, she could tell me everything about China, and I could come home and tell everyone here."

Let’s hope his date isn’t a Peking duck. Then his goose would be cooked.

– – – – – –

So that was a bit of fun. Here’s how the real CNN Fact Check Team broke down Wednesday’s debate and the rest of Campaign 2012.

And comedian Dean Obeidallah has fond memories of Big Bird and hopes he will get a reprieve.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Politics • TV
soundoff (686 Responses)
  1. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    I now turn the floor back to the GOP bashers.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality Checker

      The choice of who posts or what they say is not under your control.

      Typical self-important right-winger with delusions of grandeur.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. afnmvet

    The federal funding to PBS needs to be eliminated. It may be a small amount of money compared to our debt however there are so many of these government programs that get tax money that in total they add up to a huge amount.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tricia

      People in general should not take everything that a public figure says literally. Mitt Romney talked about programs that needed to be cut. The program that he used for an example was the first one that came to mind, the one that was sitting in front of him. The person who mediated the debate worked with PBS and provided Romney with the immediate example that he needed for his point. I wish others could look at the psychological or logical reasons how speakers come to the words that they speak on the fly.

      October 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Yeah, I didn't take that "I'll add 12 million jobs in 4 years" statement literally, either.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. William

    Honestly Romney cutting funds for PBS & Big Bird are the only things i remember about the debate last night. Romney lied like a tv preacher and told the people what they wanted to hear and Obama looked like he was bored & wanted to go home.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lord Toronaga

    End all support of NPR and PBS. I'm sick and tired of them openly spewing hate against Republicans. PBS's pea brain Allan Chartoff fof SUNY Albany is by far the worst. If you want public money you must not take a side.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les Too

      It isn't about taking sides. It's about presenting the truth. Unfortunately for the tea naggers and the rest of the conservative evangelical Republicans, it means reporting on the utterly ignorant and harmful policies and brain dead schemes supported by the Republican party. Do away with corporate welfare and "personhood", repeal the Patriot Act, end subsidies to mega-agriculture behemoths like Monsanto and end the non-profit status of any church that plays with politics then there would be no need to underfund any other services. Get rid of private concessions that serve the military and make the military show where every penny of funding is spent and justifying it would further reduce government waste by private corporations.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lord Toronaga

      Giving MONEY to Sesame Street is corp welfare. Secondly, I don't even like the show nor do my kids. And Lastly, Chartoff turned NPR into his own private political machine for his liberal bias. I'm sorry...but NO. If you want to run your mouth; pay for it yourself.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lord Toronaga

    I just love hearing from liberals.... "It's just $450,000,000". Typical of the left to not understand anything to do with adult level financing issues. Obama sure proves that fact also.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality Checker

      Who are you trying to fool?

      Romney is saying, he will take $2 TRILLION dollars from YOU and give it to the military for no specific reason? I'm an independent voter and I call BS on this expenditure and find your comment incredibly immature.

      "Romney Math, the kind that doesn't add up".

      October 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SpeakingFromTheHeart

    Eliminating funding for PBS is not the same as saying "Bye Bye" to Big Bird. I totally agree with Romney....and SO appreciate his telling us the truth (yes, contrary to popular belief – we CAN handle the truth)!

    October 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Concerned Citizen

    The PBS/Children's workshop programs do more public good for our country than most any other forms of public media. It educates children on many topics, including the importance of school and community involvement. It is also translated into many other languages and serves as a great promotion of the best qualities of the United States; diversity, faith, community and free speech. Many foreign friends have viewed the show as children and have commented on how it made them hunger for a society such as are own. To cut this type of programming over the war machine monster which has consumed our country is a public shame. It goes to show you how short term "shareholder" philosophy of the extreme elements of the country will do to damage the long term investment we need to make for our children and our nation.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • travismonroe

      Concerned Citizen, your selfishness is only exceeded by your own sense of importance. Big Bird, PBS/"children’s" workshop, it's all a bunch of liberal sh8T. How many of America’s greatest inventors, businessmen, mathematicians, scientists, etc. reached the pinnacle of success and achievement without PBS/ “children’s” workshop? All of them. The sooner we quit funding these village idiot shows and force them to live or die on their merits, the better.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GGinBhamAL

    I don't want Big Bird to lose his job, but I wouldn't mind seeing NPR and All Things Considered get the axe. Why should my tax dollars be used to support the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party?

    October 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Oh sure, honest reporting on things that hurt the GOP cause must be propaganda, but somehow it's okay if it hurts Democrats... Typical Fox-loving hypocrisy.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mothers Finest

    Republicans have taken there side.
    In support of Mitt Romney Big Bird has to go.
    Lets spend more money for war.

    Lets do what the Soviet Union did, and pour every cent into
    the war machine until the nation collapsed.

    Your country, your children, and your future mean NOTHING.

    Funny how the Republicans are screaming that this election
    is the most important election in our history.
    Putting a Republican back in the White House would be
    a complete disaster.

    Who will suffer ?
    Woman (Your body/equal pay)
    Latinos (Mow my lawn/get deported)
    Gays (No rights under the Const)
    Blacks (You are gonna pay for a black man in the white house)
    Seniors (when the votes are gone/so are they/grandma dies)
    Veterans (Job bill blocked by Repubs/fight for our wars and die on the street)
    College bound kids (Unless you are rich/we keep you poor and stupid)
    public education (again, keep em STOOPID/Texas re-writes history))
    EPA (no more clean air or water/no regulations means big bucks)
    Banks (No regulations/they screw up or they do good/either way they get rich/you pay for it)
    Oil (They make record profits/get gvnt subsidies/refuse to build refineries/you pay at the pump)
    Welfare (Millions thrown out of work because of bad Gvnt policy/Toss out the freeloaders
    who are just trying to survive because of BAD Republican policies, ignore 8 years of George Bush
    destruction and blame it all on the Black Liberal Democrat...most of the recipients of welfare are
    white Republicans from southern states.

    You Republicans are walking lock step into oblivion.

    I can tell you very easily why.
    You care more about making money
    and supporting war,
    than you do about Big Bird.

    You have LOST your moral compass.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Quite possibly the most uneducated, idiotic post I've ever read. Thanks for the laugh. People like you make me feel so much better about myself!

      October 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ed

    The idea of sending Big Bird to the unemployment line is a typical government reponse; cut things people want or need (police, fire, roadwork) and keep the bloated junk. Then they say: Well if you want those things, we'll have to raise your taxes. PBS has way too many stations and way too much overhead. There are 7 stations just in Pennsylvania and 9 in surrounding states which overlap the PA stations. Instead of showing expensive foreign imports, find some US made programs or start charging for the stations through cable or satellite. As for the idea of what about people on antennas;-our local PBS runs 5 repeaters just for them.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Wind Up Mittens Doll - $99.99 With Rebate

    Think i would rather put Big Bird in the White House than Romney.
    Big Bird doesnt lie.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Raka

    Wow! this is all CNN can come back on?? They must be going nuts down at headquarters.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Silus Greenback

    Have to go to bed.
    I am taking my Anti Republican pill.
    Happy trails America.
    Vote Obama.
    Your life depends on it.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. roy

    Mount Romney on big bird along with Paul Ryan and send them to outer space.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dynamic

    Willard also wants to get rid of EVERYTHING that costs money: PBS, Art Grants, Social Services, Business Grants and Loans, NASA, JPL, you name it, if it costs money it's gone.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen L

      Yeah, Romney's going to cut it if it costs money– and it doesn't directly benefit him or his personal friends.

      I'm fairly sure that tax cuts for the rich are more money than funding for PBS and those certainly aren't on the table.

      He wants arts and education to be privatized so that the rich can own and control them. And supposedly, fighting to retain education for the poor and middle class is class warfare.

      PBS is a MINISCULE part of the budget compared to corporate subsidies, military spending, tax cuts, etc. But you see, those are for Romney and as a country, we are here to benefit him. Didn't you know that?

      If people are educated, they stand a better chance of standing up to the Republicans. That's why they want education for the rich and only the rich, arts for the rich and only the rich, health care for the rich and only the rich, and oh to kill critical thinking training in public schools.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
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