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. gary

    I totally disagree with the debate answers that ROMNEY gave i hope no one falls for it

    October 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicki

      Agreed. I kept asking my husband WTH is Romney smoking? He's either so arrogant , he's delusional from it, or he's counting on Americans to be delusional and get their votes. Obama needs to stop being so nice and get in the game.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. oldeWhyteMann

    How much will firing Big Bird (or cutting all funding for PBS) help to save our economy? Probably such a small percentage it wouldn't even be noticed. Romney claims to be for education, but wants to remove this inexpensive form of education from all Americans. Must be because someone he knows isn't making a buck off this. Leave Big Bird and PBS alone! They are helping to educate YOUR children!

    October 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bilbo211

      It will save roughly $1.35 / year / American taxpayer. Insignificant.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      Pardon me oldeWhyteMann. I educate my children. Teachers educate my children. Television ENTERTAINS my children.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    Perhaps if Dear Leader wasn't adding $6 trillion more to the debt and taking $1.4 billion in vacations paid for by us tax payers, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

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

      1.4 billion in vacations?
      Where in the blue blazes did you get that from?
      Unless you're talking about the N Korean Dear leader...then never mind.
      Oh yeah, what about the prayerful Moromonite wanting to borrow 4.5 trillion from China to pay for the added defences needed to go to war with Iran?
      See, I can make up stuff, too.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gambi

    Wait till Miss Piggy gets wind of Big Bird getting the axe she'll make mincemeat out of Mitt.
    Seriously, has anyone told Mitt what an important job Big Bird has educating millions of children whose parents can't afford nursery school. Sesame Street has given millions of children the head start they need before attending regular school.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      If parents can't afford nursery school, they have the option of engaging their children in constructive activities...or sitting them in front of a TV.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Luddite1817

    Further into the question... What about all of the PBS stations in smaller markets... Where would their funding to operate come from? Would they shut down due to lack of funding? They can't "fund-drive" 365 days a year...

    October 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      If they can't fund drive 365 days a year, they maybe need to shut down. It's PUBLIC BROADCASTING for goodness sakes. If people want it, they'll Pay.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PBS kids

    i think it is all the govt. funded shows on the public televsion that will be cut. In the past due to no child left behind PBS kids has gotten great funding and excellent shows. I hope they find there funds through some other sponsers if Ramney is elected

    October 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sevengnet

    I am still trying to comprehend and digest everything Romney committed to last night. How and when is he planning to do all these, knowing that his right-wing party nuts will never allow half of it. Does anyone really believes all the garbage she tried to unload on American last night? I think he heard himself more than help in the long run. All that hype will go down in flames pretty fast if he does not have a solid base to support it...which unfortunately he does not.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nancy

    Sounds a little meager to me.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jean

    So, the choice is between increasing the military or educating the children? What a choice. I'm curious as to how many children over the past forty years have benefited from watching Sesame Street. Are there any other educational programs even remotely similar that are televised nationally? It seems that when there are budget problems, education and health are the first programs that are axed. I know the mantra...leave it to the states. How many states are currently providing preschool education for all children? How many states would pick up the responsibility if Sesame Street were cancelled? 1,2,3,4,5...?

    October 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      Sesame Street does not educate children. It entertains children. And the wellbeing of a child should not be left to a Tv program, the State, or the US government. The point that is lost here is that there are many unneccessary funds being spent. Not just on PBS but all the other grubbers who expect a government handout.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • edalbert

      I'm curious as to how many children over the past forty years have benefited from having a strong military to protect them.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      I love Edalbert!

      October 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jeremy szydlowski

    Mitt romney is a turd and he should not be voted for. My children like big bird and sesame street all you romney liker's should quit funding him

    October 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jack Connery

    How about basted at 300 degrees for several hours.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Al Shannon

    Don't worry about debates changing this election. Reagan lost 3 debates to Mondale...He took 49 states Bush Sr lost his debates with Michael Dukakis and Won a landslide. It was Ross Perot who won 2 of the 3 debates over Clinton and Bush Sr. but Clinton won the election in 1992. Perot came in a distant 3rd. Bush Jr lost all 5 of 6 debates to Gore and to Kerry but Bush won both elections. Yes, Obama lost style points to Romney. That is no uncommon among sitting presidents to have bad debates. Obama is the leader of this country and Romney is busy making up his own set of facts to make himself look good. In the end, the public will see though his lies and exaggerations and vote for the one they trust when things are going bad, President Obama. The bottom line that defeated Romney was two fold. He promised to touch Social security and he promised to give 6 trillion to the wealthy while cutting ALL social programs that don't benefit the rich and powerful. One has to give him credit, he's bold enough to tell the public what he will do and not take it back. He's a proud rich man who thinks if you're not rich then you are lazy or stupid. So by by Mr. Romney, cause the closest you will get to being president is when you shook the president's hand last evening. Obama loses the style points, but all the trust and facts are in his corner. That is how you win a real debate. Not with words and smiles, but with substance and specifics. Just ask Reagan, Clinton, and the 2 Bushes.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      LOL. Yeah. Let's just ask Reagen and the 2 Bushes! LOL You're too funny!

      October 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pimpson

    Romney says he'll cut funding to PBS, not just Sesame Street. You libs are so dumb, you get everything wrong

    October 4, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Margaryy55

      And who do u think pbs most viewed program? Sesame street. So if romney does cut funding to pbs, sesame street is the first to go since it requires almost 90% of the funds given to pbs. Fool.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCaf

      If it's cut, then it would be PBS making the decision that Sesame Street isn't important to them. But don't worry, PBS has the money to fund itself.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tom Moffatt

    Caroll Spinney – the man inside Big Bird, and who has developed Big Bird through many decades, carefully works to encourage tolerance among children, and the concept of thinking about things. Big Bird encourages compromise and a sense that "we are all in this together", thanks to the careful work of Caroll Spinney. That Romney offhandedly wishes to extinguish this says more about the Presidential Candidate than he might wish.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Reality Checker

    Romney has no SPECIFIC economic plan. None.

    But he wants to spend $2 TRILLION more dollars on the military that they didn't request?

    October 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
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