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. icen_von

    REAL PEOPLE DON'T HAVE JOBS!! CNN is concerned about this NON-LIVING THING?!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mat

      There are real people who work on producing Sesame Street. They'll lose their jobs.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      @Mat – Doubtful. Most of the programs that air on Sesame street would likely get picked up by major networks, or spawn the creation of new networks, creating jobs in the private sector, that wouldnt need to be funded by tax dollars. There is plenty of money to be made in merchandising from Sesame Street, as well as other established shows on Pbs networks. Im sure their not hurting for the cash, and the talent pool isnt running dry. Another liberal argument.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mat

      Jeremy, that is hypothetical, not a guarentee. It could go a completely different way. Perhaps other networks won't see the benefit of picking up educational shows because they've already got things like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo". Just so you know, I'm not liberal.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      Perhaps, but I think PBS has a niche audience, and people are genuinely interested in the programming. We will never know unless they get off public assistance. Oh theres a good analogy – a person on Public assistance will more than likely not try to stand on their own, until absolutely necessary, then when they finally spread their wings, they realize they can do just fine

      October 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FarLeft

    How about slashing some of the quadrillion-dollar, military budget, that Romney want to INCREASE!!!!!!!! The war-mongering, angry elephants would have us at-war, with half-the-planet, while our children grow-up on a diet of.... what, exactly? Big-Bird, and all the rest of the Sesame Street gang helped raise me, my children, and now, my grand-children. And we all took something positive and enriching from that time with the boob-toob. My grand-son, when told about this yesterday, went to sleep upset, woke-up upset, and during the last phone-home from work, was STILL upset. Romney, my opinion of you is quickly degrading.., and that opinion wasn't very high in the first-place.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. barry mitchell

    Let's give somebody the BIG BIRD !!!! You can knok me over with a feather.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. joetox

    Romney stating he "loves Big Bird" is Romneys sly attempt to relate and communicate with the 47% and the Ryan 30%.......Romney may "love" the 47% and 30% for VOTES, but will cut their/our funding just like he will with Big Bird.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Adiah

    Has Mitt Romney or any of his family ever been on Sesame Street?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hollywood

    I hope that PBS will always be there. I raised my son on Big Bird and company and i found it to be highly intelligent and fun. Leave things as they are.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ZELL

    The next Sesame Street production will be brought to you by the letters F, U, C, K, R, O, M, N, E, and Y! Do you kids at home know what that spells??

    October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Khan

      Best.Comment.Ever. Nicely done.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. M12

    It's easy
    PBS is a total waste of money
    Govt has no business being in tv
    This show has been a huge revenue generator, yet PBS needs us to borrow from China?
    No thanks, no more borrowing

    October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LacrosseMom(real one)

    BIG OIL receives billions each year in tax cuts and subsidies ......BUT....... PBS that gets $2.5 million, will be axed by Bishop Romney!!

    Honestly! The Republicans want to balance the budget and cut the deficit on the BACKS OF CHILDREN, EDUCATION, THE ELDERLY, THE POOR, THE DISABLED, THE SICK............ CHRISTIANS? NO!

    AND YEAH...... ROMNEY LIED OVER AND OVER AND NO ONE HAS THE BACKBONE TO CALL HIM OUT!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tim

    Romney loves Big Bird...isn't that child/cross-species/same gender, you know something that the GOP should be against?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LacrosseMom(real one)

    @ Jon Kling: Correct! Talk about pandering!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. REGinAZ

    Analyze Romney's and the Republican / Tea Party's priorities and you will clearly identify their masters, those who strongly support them and who they cater to. In all cases they are loyal to "the money" and seek to cut where "the money" is not offended. Then they are totally dishonest about it and seek to con the people and manipulate public opinion, with the substantial help of the power, influence and mega-bucks from "the money". From repealing Obamacare to cutting social programs to increasing defense spending they seek to placate their strong supporters and have no conscience for the people. If the voters accept their dishonesty and support them then we can expect nothing other than "more of the same", Bush-Cheney style, with "more of the same" results that again will cost the majority drastically.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Alicia

    If you want to talk about Romney lying...consider Obama (and Hillary Clinton) attending a bilderberg meeting... which, violates the Lund Act.

    I'd much prefer Romney fudge a few numbers than having a standing president cavoorting with non- governmental, ultra wealthy bankers that are conspiring to change the world with their influences.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. icen_von

    Big Bird is FOAM and CLOTH. REAL PEOPLE can't afford to take care of their families and themselves. If Obama wants to be the President of PBS, let him QUIT the WHITE HOUSE and go take care of MUPPETS!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JOhhn

    Anything to distract from this miserable failure of a presidency.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
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