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. Louis

    Now that's were I draw the line! Save the Birdy !!!

    October 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ron McDonald

    You can't walk through a toy store or a kids section of a book store without seeing all the Sesame Street merchandising. Big Bird and his friends are among the world's richest characters. One Percenters for sure. Don't feel sorry for them They have commercialized themselves into posterity.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • joan

      come on now, let's get to the real point. It's not Big Bird or Sesame Street, it's ALL public broadcasting programming. think about Nova, and a whole miriad of educational programming for children.

      sure.. let's just stop the funding and gradually in 20 years, when our educational system is far behind the rest of the world, we might stop and wonder what all contributed to it.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Greg

    You've got to be kidding me, we waste that much money per hour in our two wars.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      So that makes it right?

      October 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • palusko996769

      Greg, it just makes it much less important.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bianca

    I read that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted "Cutting PBS support (0.012% of the budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive."

    October 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Twinn

      $450 MILLION DOLLARS (or how Dr. deGrasse puts it at 0.012%) is still quite a summable amount. That's twice the net worth of Romney. When compared to our insane deficit, it appears small. Anything does. I'm sure PBS is not atop the list that would get cut. Pretty sure ObamaCare is #1, and he brilliantly beat Obama in even the health care segment last night. This independent is voting ROMNEY 2012!!!

      October 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rita Marinko

    The amount of money that goes to help Sesame Street is such a pittance in comparison to what a new tank or fighter jet costs. And I would be willing to bet that Sesame Street has helped MILLIONS of children learn and progress through their pre-school and early elementary education. That is a benefit beyond measure.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ann

    Romney said and I 100% agree, if we have to BORROW, FROM CHINA, to pay for PBS, I don't want to do it. It would be insane.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      Thank you for writing this comment. You are 100 percent correct. If we have to borrow money from China to pay for it, then it's wrong. Funny, so many people claim that Sesame Street helped them learn to read, but obviously didn't help them to learn to listen or how to manage money. Geez.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • USMama

      Romney & Friends should pay their fair share of taxes. Now we can afford PBS without borrowing money from China.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. crimson

    Awesome picture of Big Bird

    October 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Craig

    Really, this is the story?

    Obama gets his a55 wiped in a debate and the story is Big Bird. These journalist have no sense of reality.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    That's right, go after education. They already bank on the uninformed for their votes. And, if I hear one more person talk about how liberal PBS is, look who funds the programing. America needs to do a bit of growing up.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Patrick

    So Mitt says PBS is not important enough to borrow money from China to keep them on the air. Tell me, Mr. Romney – are the Bush-era tax cuts that were designed to expire important enough to keep going that we can borrow money from China to pay for THEM? How about two useless foreign wars? A domestic war on americans (the drug war)? How did Obama even let him get away with saying that ridiculous line without shutting him down?

    October 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    Big Bird is EASILY part of the 1%. He must make 50 million plus a year in licensing fees alone. He should be TAXED like the dems want all 1%'ers to be taxed. At 40% thats about 20 million per year. I think he would be smart to just hide his big bird head and take the hit Romney is proposing.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Tax Big Bird, AND ALL CHURCHES.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snuffle

    40 years of funding and Big Bird still can't spell??

    October 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Norm

    Yes lets eliminate public education so we can increase our bloated defense budget even more.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    Ya, and Mitt Romney forgot the mention that he did such a good job in Mass as governor, his state is 22 trillion dollars in debt, and the fourth largest in debt in the whole nation, total of 420 trillion dollars. His plan really worked, right? Ya... sure.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jACK

      It's the big pit called Romneycare. History repeats itself.

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

      How can a single state be almost as high as the US deficit of 16 trillion? Your facts are so off base it is hilarious. How do you people sleep at night knowing you are spouting lies?

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

      Somebody has a problem with their math skills.
      The entire national debt is just under 16 trillion, so 420 trillion let alone 22 trillion is a number pulled from your rear correct?

      October 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn Math

      Joe, I am not a Republican, but boy, get your zeros correctly. The US national debt is at $16 trillions, not $400+ trillions.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Where do you get your facts from? You are so wrong. I highly doubt the state of Mass has more debt than all the nations on earth combined X 8.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      world debt clock at w w w DOT economist DOT com/content/global_debt_clock

      October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill, Bloomington Il

      Jon, please tell that to the people who have jobs in the defense industry. Maybe your job is the biggest waste on earth. More liberal hatred. The party of hate is the democrats.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeckkers

      You're numbers aren't right – not by a longshot. When Romney was governor, he lowered the deficit and, during the last 2 years of his governorship, the state had a surplus.

      October 5, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. KEVIN21261

    Romney is serious about cutting funding for PBS.

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

      esther, get my shotgun, I think I see dinner

      October 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
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