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. scottt01

    Big bird, Progressives sacred cow; second only to Iran.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulie

      Likes This!

      October 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. walid

    'But this country has an endless supply of Billions upon Billions to overseas looking for guy who can barely walk hiding inside a cave???? Wake up you morons, when are you fools going to stop being blind sheeps.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. seyedibar

    I really don't get what PBS has to do with budgetary concerns. It's such a minute fraction of federal spending. I have no numbers, but it can't be more than half of one percent. Want to save some money fast? Stop building missiles and tanks. Start taxing churches that operate as businesses or influence voting pools.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • babs

      yes indeed. You're right on.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jon

    The question is not "Is Big Bird important enough to borrow money from china." The question is "Is Romney's tax cuts important enough to borrow money from china."

    October 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • reasonablebe

      you got it. romney says he won't do tax cuts that add to the deficit-- not the same as saying I won't do millionaire tax cuts, more like, they won't add to the deficit because he'll cut away not just deductions and 'loopholes' --exactly which ones, Mitt, you still haven't told us-- hammer him on this Obama and media, hammer him, dont' say it once and let it drop! big mistake-- he'll cut out social programs and ed programs, like PBS, NPR, free school lunches, re-education for the unemployed, and so on...

      don't be fooled. Obama, you need to be a bit more ready for the next debate, be quick on your feet and not as gentlemanly.... if he interrupts you, interrupt him back, talk over him, whatever..... and remind the moderator just whose turn it is to respond first and last....

      October 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Horse Pucky

    We left Iraq.
    We are winding down Afganistan.
    Romney wants a 4% increase in Defense spending.
    Even the pentagon has not asked for that.
    We have the largest and most modern military on earth.

    Instead of doing away with a few obsolete battle ships or jets,
    we kill off big bird.

    Welcome to The Republican version of America.


    October 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 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 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • allens

      simplistic at best. so does that mean the oil companies should be able to stand up on their own? after all the billions in profit they make. oh wait, i see the difference, public broadcasting is non profit and shows quality movies and educational shows for the american people. i get it now. sorry for my ignorence

      October 4, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      The majority of PBS viewers are middle class families. Most people who take public assistance do so for less than two years.

      Do you always support your arguments with stereotypes?

      October 4, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • babs

      to Andrew: thank you. I love PBS. There are many many wonderful programs on public TV and never have I been on food stamps.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • reasonablebe

      news flash!!!!! PBS programming is actually informative and educational and fascinating- and great.... can't say the same for anything else on tv most nights.... give me PBS over food network and 'reality' shows anytime, anywhere- but maybe you prefer Ice Road Truckers (hmphh, aren't they tough and brilliant?) or Deadliest Catch or Swamp People or some other inane programs.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep

      a person on Public assistance will more than likely not try to stand on their own,

      You ever been on public assistance ?
      Its degrading.
      They give you just enough to survive.
      You stand for hours in lines like cattle.
      You are treated very bad.

      I get $200.00 in food stamps per month.
      Have you seen the prices at the store ?
      Forget Steak, you buy cheap hamburger.
      No Alchohol, or ciggs...Fine.
      But you cannot purchase anything but food products.
      No toilet paper, aspirin, tooth paste, soap or mouthwash.

      Every week i have to turn in a sheet proving that i have
      looked for work.
      15 Job applications per week.
      You know how hard that is, when NOBODY is hiring ?

      You idiots who think we are scamming the system,
      yeah we just sit back and rake in the money
      having a grand old time, getting drunk and going on paid

      I would rather work, thank you.
      My 17 year job at Eastman Kodak was shipped to Mexico.
      You cant even find a job at McDonalds here.
      For every job opening, there are 200 applicants.

      You Republicans have been drinking too much poisoned kool aid.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mattinator

    This was a terrible article. Who writes these things, children? It seems as though th author thought speaking as if Big Bird is a living breathing member of our society is going to help drive home some point. Instead all it did for me was undermine whatever message they were trying to make, turning the entire article into a parody of journalism. Let's be honest, there are tons of channels out there now with children's shows, someone will pick up sesame street, most of the rest of the lineup on PBS for kids is not that fantastic, and even then the street is a shell of it's former self during it's glory days.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • babs

      I see that you've not discoverd PBS. SO much more that childrens programs.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermit The Frog

      It seems as though th author thought speaking as if Big Bird is a living breathing member of our society is going to help drive home some point.

      Big Bird is a living legacy for millions of children
      that have grown up with him.
      Its baseball and apple pie.
      Piggy says the most beautiful thing on earth is a smile from a child.
      I think Piggy is right.
      We sometimes forget what is important.


      October 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Supernachos

    Sigh, You will be missed Big Bird... Remember Big Bird, you didn't build Sesame Street on your own...there was Ms Piggy, Herbie, The Cookie Monster, Elmo, and those grumpy old men and many others!!! You helped me learn the basics at a young age and contributed in building my moral character to become a responsible citizen of the world. If things don't work out for you by November 2012, I just want thank you and the rest of the cast of Sesame Street for your Public Service!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ron


    On average a dollar spent by the government on educational purposes has seven-fold return. We tend to ignore that because it takes up to thirty years to see that return. If you want to be fiscally responsible cutting funding for Big Bird is not the way to go.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zuma123

    Cut big bird? Then give those million to Israel...not with my taxdollars

    October 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. wassupUSA

    Sesame Street is so marketable that it is inexcusable to subsidize it. I'm with Romney on this one.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      If that were true then Transformers would be teaching children the alphabet.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • babs

      thank you Sam.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulie

      Think of the millions of dollars Big Birds visage alone generates.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MaryM

    And Big Bird says to Mitt, This portion of Sesame Street is brought to you by the letters f and u

    October 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • OvernOut

      Thanks for that, I just had to clean coffee off my screen!

      October 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • babs

      Thanks. I needed the laugh.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • CR112


      October 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermit The Frog

      Hugs to Mary !
      Piggy just fell of of her chair.....whoa.......

      De Frog.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Have you ever seen Big Bird weild a sledge hammer? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird hold a chair, anywhere in corporate America? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird perform an operation? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird sell cars? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird sell his carcass on the street? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird do impulsive things like smoke cigarettes or gamble money? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird act as Paul Bearer at a funeral? No. Have you ever seen Big Bird do piece work at a factory? No. Honestly now, if Big Bird couldn't find work doing something, and showed up in November in the Unemployment line, do you think they would deny him unemployment compensation. Yes.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermit The Frog

      Have you ever seen Big Bird hate anybody ?
      Its a shame that you have lost your childhood and your humanity.
      Some things are more important.

      Piggy would like to have a word with you,
      but i locked her in the closet.

      De Frog.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mandor

    If this is a big enough deal to enough people, then feel free to donate money out of pocket to your own local PBS station. Or hey, maybe the show will be picked up by a private network with all of the good and all of the bad that goes with that.

    I don't agree with Romney on much. But i do agree with him on this. Government spends money on WAY TOO MANY things that are not something it should be in the business of in the first place. Yes, PBS subsides are probably less than 20 seconds worth of the annual Pentagon budget. But federal governnment has a solid responbility to defend the nation. There is absolutely no NEED to tax the average worker bee even one one-thousandth of a cent to support Sesame Street. Every program should get a top-to-bottom review of "is this something government should have ever gotten involved in the in first place".

    October 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shangey G

      Can we do that with the military? Oh gee, we can't. 56% of my income tax goes to the military offense budget ... you know... forced socialized military.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. noteasilyswayed

    While the Big Bird statement may be funny to a certain degree, it shows where Mitt Romney's priorities are and that he will eliminate or reduce educational programs while inflating the military industrial complex and Big Oil..... if he gets elected, the subsidies to big corporations (which do not really need them) will not be reduced or eliminated.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
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