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. Ground Zero

    I agree with Mitt... PBS can fend for itself... If Big Bird needs new employment maybe he could join the military and retrain as a drone to attack Al Qaeda...

    October 5, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Obama was prepared for this debate, like he was prepared for the attack on our Embassy. And I do not have to say anything regarding that, because you know exactly where I'm comming from.
    Good Night.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    Wow, so the richest country in the world can't afford a bit of public programming? Yet we can afford more tax breaks for the rich and more subsidies for huge industries like OIL? What have we become? Where are our priorities.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      well said...it is sad when I see this country has become so afraid of spending money on other people and projects – it has become such that everyone just fed for them self and never help anyone else out. it is outrageous that people have become such egoists!!!

      October 5, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Susie

      We have come to the point that we realize taking other people's money only lasts for a while, then they get tired of it. We have 400 channels on TV now many of them educational. Its kind of silly to fund this when we are going bankrupt.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Public programming and PBS was never intended to be funded by the federal government. This programming is supposed to be mostly locally funded. What you people don't seem to understand is that the federal government cannot and should not be funding everything for everyone. That type of thinking will bankrupt this country. We're already well on our way.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. BILLY

    Kinda pathetic that after seeing Obama fail to defend his record, the main thing liberal media is focusing on is the big bird thing. Failing economy and foreign relations in shambles and liberals are "omg we gotta save big bird from mitt!"

    October 5, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. Russ

    If Romney has his way, PBS will be closed down. Why? Because the religious right doesn't like the government supporting an organization that has shows about evolution.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Russ

    Romney is running a scorched earth campaign, where he will obliterate everything that people love and depend on.
    PBS? Kill it. Healthcare? Veto it. Social Security? Cut it for new retirees. Medicare? Cut it for future retirees. National Parks? They don't need all that money. Education Dept.? Eliminate it. EPA? Kill it. Unemployment Ins.? Cut it. Foodstamps? Cut them. Military? Expand their budget $1 Trillion!

    October 5, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • CR112

      In al seriousness, Romney is not someone I'd trust to have access to nuclear weapons.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Susie

      LOL try to grow up and stop depending on the government for everything. Eventually it will turn on you and destroy you. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely...so I suggest you take back control of your life.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • 40cal78

      everything you brought up are hits of heroin making us more and more dependent on the gov't. we need to kick these bad habits. everything the gov't does is wastefull and mediocre if not dysfunctional. we dont need a big government to do what we can do for ourselves.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cloche

    This is not just about PBS or Big Bird, this is about protecting the American way of life, the hope for our children. PBS may last with the cuts, but if we let them take this, who is to say all public programs would not be cut? I would much rather have my taxes used to support the arts and education, then give billions to oil in tax breaks. What is wrong with our country when just doing what is best for our future is socialist?!?

    October 5, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Susie

      There are 400 channels to watch. If PBS wer to go belly up, the other channels would buy up the good shows and the trash would go away.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      PBS is supposed to be funded by local government, not the federal government. That's why PBS and NPR ask for donations from their communities. But while we're on the topic, what else would you like the feds to pay for? Would you like them to send you a new pair of shoes every month? Huh? Would that be nice? Maybe they should come mow your lawn once a week or bag your leaves. Not enough? How about a $50 gift card to Applebee's? Just write a letter so that they know where to cut you off so that they don't go bankrupt trying to pay for every little thing for each locale. Oh wait, we're already going broke. Nevermind. Carry on.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Zodnick

    The lame stream media strikes again. There are no less than eight pro-Obama or negative Romney stories on the CNN website today in an act of desperation by CNN's editors to bailout Obama's dismal performance last night. These guys are just as bad as FOX when it comes partisan hype.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tyler Meek

    What? This is a drained display of writing at best. Fictional pieces of americana being used as political satire for the purpose of "tung in cheek" comentary is cheap and weak. Grow a pair and write about what matters you low budget, roach inspired, dirt balls. We are all dumber for having read your article.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. DCaf

    @Not I think Ernie and Bert are probably more your speed, anyway. Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away ....

    October 5, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. steve

    We will keep big bird.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kona

    Mitt, there you go again displaying your prowess at firing people! I don't know why you didn't pick Donald Trump as your running mate. Just think of how many more people you would both be able to fire!

    October 5, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. amaathya

    "But I will not raise taxes on the richest individuals in the country"

    October 5, 2012 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. 40cal78

    why wont you post....whoever screens the posts is a stooge

    October 5, 2012 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Phil

    Cut it! A bird that big could feed a lot of homeless people. Isn't that what Libs are always worried about?

    October 5, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
    • fayem1

      Okay but if you are going to cut educational TV then you better cut the subisdies to NASCAR and Big Oil fair is fair right?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Lord Toronaga

      Cut them too.

      October 5, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
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