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. me

    So just curious ... Big Bird is aimed at education – are we now trying to kill education?

    October 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • todaypost

      you beta, education costs money, it will be cut.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DenCo

    Romney made a point that all federally funded programs should be looked at, and off the top of his head, used PBS and Big Bird as an example. If they cost too much (i.e. are funded by China), then they should be cut. Why would we want to continue programs that don't fulfill the role of the federal government, that we cannot afford? That does not seem like a partisan issue to me, in fact, I think that sounds like Obama last night... The first response from this board will be, "you are right, cut defense", but if you have no security, how can you have liberty, freedom or opportunity? Governing is about choices, leadership and compromise. Does that sound like the last 4 years? A vote for President Obama is an endorsement of what he has done, and a bet on what he will do. Based on his track record, I would guess that would be a losing choice.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna Tull

      rew up on Sesame Street. In fact my generation grew up on Sesame Street and we still talk about it today with passion. And I'm from Trinidad. Romney will be doing a great disservice to the World by stopping funding for PBS.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • capitan

      So if cutting defense spending is detrimental to our security, how is cutting educational programs (such as PBS's shows) not one in the same?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shangey G

      You're obviously paid to make these comments.

      The U.S. military's "defense" budget is in fact OFFENSE. Offense makes us less safe and secure. Nice try though buddy. Maybe find another job?

      October 5, 2012 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. OtaEifforc

    Lo, and behold; our esteemed Mr. Romney loves Big Bird. But wait a minute, he wants to get rid of it? Tough love, eh?
    I believe the big old elephant lost his marbles!!!

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

    Let's assume that half of America doesn't want to use tax money to support radio and television programming. I have read that the average American pays a little over a dollar in taxes for PBS. So here's the easy solution: cut the tax, and everyone who thinks Big Bird is worth saving can pay a $2 donation to PBS to make up for the non-taxpayers and the objecting taxpayers. Or is that too much to ask? As for the argument that some households don't have children's books and need Sesame Street to teach numbers and letters, I suggest (1) the parents get active and (2) we use tax money to support public libraries.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • rakava

      Perfect! I know I'm in the minority but because I grew up in an area where you could only get VHF in the pre-cable days of the 70s and early 80s, Big Bird means nothing to me. I got by with Bozo, Captain Kangaroo, the New Zoo Review and Romper Room.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tsar140

    This is exactly the kind of minor, yet memorable, flub that can ruin a campaign. I am wondering if two weeks from now the only thing undecided voters (who are generally politically disengaged) remember about this debate is that Romney wants to fire Big Bird. If so, Obama–who clearly lost–actually won last night. Welcome to the wonderful world of American democracy.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna Tull

      Obama played possum last night and stood back and gave Romney the rope to hang himself.

      I feel an etch a sketch moment coming on.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wjeri

    Teletubbies say bye bye........

    October 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony F

    Did someone get paid to write this? is this considered political comentary in your world?

    October 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. trina

    benjamin button bird lol

    October 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Me

    I'm sure Oprah is looking for a great investment, PBS could ask her.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kehvan

    Looks like the Obama campaign is busy hitting the message boards.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ug

    No more lies and waste of taxpayers money for this nonsense finally! Vote Romney.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna Tull

      Romney had no specifics and substance in that debate all he had was showmanship. If he does get elected I guess he'll really put on a show, a horror show. Be prepared for the fall of Rome.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Donna Tull

    So this guy tells the guy who is moderating that hard luck but you will lose your job if I become president.

    Say classy Romney.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • todaypost

      What do you expect from a guy who like to fire people.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kent Madsen

    I wholeheartedly support PBS...I guess if you are rich you just hire tutors, I really think that his comment on Big Bird was out-of-line and yet another one failed attempt at humor, yet believes on cutting funding to PBS, obviously he doesn't believe in the American dream and is out of touch with most of this country, otherwise he would know that most of us grew up on PBS and learned to dream and become all we could be thanks to PBS

    October 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna Tull


      October 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • todaypost

      unfortunately, he believes PBS kids grow up as liberals. So PBS has to go, not for cost saving but as a liberal organizatin.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mainer

      So did my brothers and sisters, as well as both of my children.
      You do know why the Go-P/tea Nuts HATE PBS dont you? It's supported by people and the "Corporation for Public Broadcasting" and Robme himself wants to make it private to make money on it.


      October 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Druti

    so he wants to take away the educational programs that helped me and my friends become the intellectual people that we are today...now these little kids can stay home and watch How I met your mother, keeping up with the Kardashians and Icarly (which does have inappropriate language). Real smart Romney, way to make American kids amazing in the future.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. marcy

    Honestly, I thought PBS stood for PUBLIC BROADCASTING STATION. They request donations from the PUBLIC to keep programming up and running daily. When did the Government become responsible for paying for the proramming and salaries?

    People (CNN) is really making more out of this than necessary. I believe Romney was just using the person monitering the debate as an example, if it had been some other Government paid operation, he wouldn't have even mentioned Big Bird. Come on, is this what we have to look forward to for the next 33 days from the different news stations?

    Why pounce on the Big Bird comment and use it to make news???

    October 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • pogojo

      Made possible by contributions by you?

      October 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bilbo211

      Oh, I see... so are public schools also paid for by donations? I'm unclear on the definition of public funding... so I'm glad you've enlightened me.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      You're right Marcy! PBS is supposedly financed by private individuals. It is just one example of government spending that can be eliminated. Now if we can only eliminate lifetime perks for Senators and Representatives-we'd be in the money!

      October 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Valeria

      Look in this economy it's tough. I like pbs and I like big bird. I like cspan too and they are not government funded. Why should the taxpayers fund pbs or any other station for that matter? We can't afford it. PBS has been there a long time how do you keep it going? Can't ? If you don't have enough public support to keep your ratings going without asking for it from the taxpayer then maybe it's not worth keeping.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
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