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. dread

    hey mitt romney, and i thought you said you love to create jobs. In this, it seems you love firing people more from there jobs. That is the truth of mitt romney!

    October 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Yugnok

    Obviously Romney mentioned PBS as an example one of those non-essential things that we would like to do but can't afford.

    It was an example of non-essential things that could be cut. He never claimed it would put a dent in the deficit. However, add up similar non-essential things and cut them all and then we are getting somewhere.

    Hey when I am in debt, I stop buying luxuries that I don't need. Essentials only until I can afford those kinds of things.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dzerres

      Big Bird represents about one tenth of one percent of the budget. Romney wants to INCREASE defense spending, cut taxes for the rich but Big Bird, well, he's gotta go! That's like you cutting back on your budget by using two toilet paper squares rather than three but then you go out and buy a Corvette. Doesn't make sense.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • MittNoNo

      And based on your writing, you could benefit from the educational programs on public television.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Spencer

      Outrage over this is ridiculous! Every network would jump at the chance to air Sesame Street!

      It would get dozens of bids! Big Bird is NEVER going to be unemployed, but he might just end up richer under a private contract.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • DCaf

      Please, PBS has money. Losing government funding wouldn't hurt them much. Besides, they could easily recoup that money in different ways if they wanted – AND THEY KNOW IT! So don't be fooled. Big bird will continue be around for as long as the public and the network wants him.

      October 5, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Celestine

    CNN thanks for been the best network on earth as well as PBS unlike other bias networks out there. Mitt Romney talk Is cheap because American people are not stupid. We are still waiting on how you plan to cut the deficit. What are you going to cut or are you going to keep borrowing more from china. Be specific Mr.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bens

    I think people missed the point of Romney's comments. His statement indicated that everything the government spends money on will be examined. Those things that are not worth going into debt for will be cut. I do the same thing every month. Examine my expenses. Examine my revenue. Decide what stays and what goes in my budget. If something changes, then I change my spending habits as well. Romney sees the government as a business and he intends to cut waste. I think that it is high time the "government bubble" popped rather than just continues to bloat.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • MittNoNo

      Definitely agree Mitt sees the government as a business, no doubt about that. But what exactly is the government in business for? And is it a for profit or non profit? So yes, we have a choice this year of a capitalist or a community organizer. Who can best LEAD the business of government and represent us to the world?

      October 5, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. macmb

    I have two sons ages 6 and 7 and they don't even know who Big Bird is. My kids do great in school. Again, America's romaticism is costing this country money. the producers of of Big Bird will be just fine without tax payer's millions every year. I've worked in television and there is a lot of wasting of money going around. They are not the nicest people in the world. Hey, how come Disney doesn't get money from the government too, they do even more for kids. It's called captalism.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • dylan

      ok your kids might be find the issue is that pbs isnt on cable so poor family's without cable can show their children these shows. I grew up watching nova another pbs program and i have to say that's the reason im a biologist today it shaped my life in incredible ways. you know what the worst time of year was. when pbs had to take a month out of regular programming to ask for donations. i say keep the .001 percent of the budget or whatever it is for pbs it shouldn't be what your thinking of cutting when your country is failing to beat other nations at math and science. Romenys plan cuts something like 50% of the budget by 2022 do you know how many PBS's that is?!?!?!?!

      October 5, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. zeny zabala

    Gov. Romney is right. Tired of working hard and paying taxes for this silliy thing. Let Thanksgiving do it for you, governor.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. macmb

    I will just start producing some kid show and start getting millions in grants from the government. Yeah, the government should have no business in television spending money that will go to the pockets of big fat and RICH TV producers.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bun

    Actually, Sesame Street is 43 years old, starting in 1969. I have 5 children, am an early childhood special ed. teacher with a husband who really is a rocket scientist. I went to preschool in Germany and in Virginia as a child. I was NOT plopped in front of the TV nor did I do that for my own children. Yes, Sesame Street is entertainment, HOWEVER, I learned to count in Spanish by watching the show as a child. Since I took French, I know for a fact it was this TV show that did indeed TEACH me that skill. And PBS is not just Sesame Street, there are other excellent shows on for adults and children alike. Give me a break, even if it is just entertainment, the money spent is a drop in the bucket compared to all the other stuff we could cut. The fact that there are sooooo many comments by so many people shows you that it's important enough to keep Big Bird and his friends around for awhile longer. Not to mention the fact that a TON of children that I teach light up when I design activities around the Sesame Street gang. I have taught special needs toddlers and preschoolers many, many skills using this theme and the kids just love when I bring Elmo puzzles, toys, playdoh etc. to play with to encourage language/ literacy and other life skills........ they are a high-interest, preferred activity for the little crowd. And THAT is priceless............ saving a crap-ton of money of the other side of special education. Think about that angle, friends.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. macmb

    Carol-Lynn Parente is the producer of Sesame Street. She is a millionaire and lives in a mansion in New Jersey. Well, if the Romney was for the rich, he would simply keep funding her business with grants. If anything, I would rather fund day care programs all over the country instead of making Carol-Lynn even richer.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. SoArizona

    By the way. . . That's over 150 million Americans that are not working.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. unhappy

    He will not pay his taxes and he is shipping his money and jobs overseas and he is cutting Big bird? This man is a joke. Romney changes like a chameleon, he says what people want to hear at any time and has a straight face about it. he is very unbelieveable to me and as a registered republican voter, he will not get my vote.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Shawn

    Goodbye Big Bird, you will be missed. Now parent such as myself will be forced to actually interact with our kids and teach them about life. I'm a parent, and my kids get 45 minutes a day of television, they are all under 8 years of age (I have 3 daughters), they all get straight A's in school, and they all get good behavior awards. Big bird isn't a vital part of our society, sure he's an icon of youth, but Romney right, we don't need to borrow money to pay for it, Surely like most business' there is waste at PBS that could be cleaned up to shore up the gap between donations and the government subsides and surely we need to cut all non essential government programs to keep America's economic engine running. How is there an argument against this? Only those with an IQ near a shrub could say that spending money you don't have on non essential things is a good idea, hell we have therapist's who make a living teach people who do that with there own money that its bad behavior, how can we as a nation say we want to do it?

    October 5, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      I was typing from work in a hurry, please forgive my grammar errors

      October 5, 2012 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    I'm too old for a paper route. Too young for Social Security. And, too tired to have an affair.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mako

    Way to go CNN!! Once again – pulling at the HEART STRINGS of AMERICAN and get them all riled up over an ambiguous statement ROMNEY made. Look how the media twists and turns and points people into believing ROMNEY is going to make a beloved puppet be unemployed. CNN is more DIRTY THAN politics right now.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Big Bird is scared by Mitt, and won't stand up to him. He's "yellow".

    October 5, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
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