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. Lord Toronaga

    The people who run these so called "Public" media outlets, who also collect a whole lotta money from the tax payers, should NOT engage in political bias. The big name in this liberal slur factory is ALLEN CHARTOFF from SUNY Albany NY. He collects money from the federal govt and he uses it to further liberal agendas. Not right. No more money for "Big Bird" Super PACs.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • garypaul54

      That big bird spreading that liberal agenda to those five year olds that's not right.

      October 5, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Lord Toronaga

      Have you ever listened to NPR. They outright say the Republicans MUST be stopped and are evil people. NFW am I going to approve of money going to these liberal media super PACS.

      October 5, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. scanboy

    Yes, let's privatize Sesame Street! The program will only be trading sponsorship from the letters A, B, C to the letters ABC or NBC or CBS or etc. And check what advertisers call "content" - it's their commercials, not the program. Be ready for commercials with Big Bird hawking his breakfast cereal made from Monsanto-licensed grains.

    The image with Big Bird holding the sign "Will work for food," should read, "Will work for feed - chicken feed." Targeting PBS for cutting while "pledging" to increase Military spending 2 trillion dollars that the Military hasn't asked for is unconscionable. Hmmm. Sounds like a tax-raising government-sponsored jobs program. But wait, Mitty is not going to raise taxes, right?

    If I compare August Romney to September Romney to October Romney all I can say is, "None of these things are quite like the other, none of these things are kinda the same..."

    October 5, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Oakspar

      Seasame Street is a multi-million dollar property (remember those "Tickle Me Elmo" dolls?).

      Bedding, toys, learning games, etc – Seasame Street is THE most profitible children's property on the planet. Cutting funding to PBS might result in a lower profit margine, but Big Bird, Elmo, and Oscar could all make a living doing the EXACT same show on any commercial network (well, shortened for commercial time).

      If they want to keep their non-profit status, then the station can simply continue to raise its funding through pledges, gifts, and sponsership. After all, if you really want to save Big Bird, the answer is simple – donate to PBS and fund him – rather than using the rule of law to take my money to fund him.

      If Big Bird is a property worth saving, then he is worth paying for. If it takes the government forcing people to support him, then he is not worth it. PBS has been on government welfare for way too long and its value to the community has not proven a solid return on investment (and investment is not the role of government anyways).

      October 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lord Toronaga

    I don't even like "Big Bird" or most of the fruity characters on Sesame Street. Everything seems stereotyped and contrived. My kids hated it. Never watched. And they are doing just fine without all that crazy BS.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Lord Toronaga

    Big Bird looks like a cross dresser and acts like one also. Go away.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lord Toronaga

    Liberals don't worship the sky God...they worship the empty chair God. They turned Obama into a religious figure with supernatural GOD powers. Conservatives only like Mittens as a good man....that's all. We don't think he's the super being.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Amused

      "Lord Toronaga" – Maybe YOU don't see Romney as the Super Being, but it is quite obvious that HE thinks he is! Romney is a LEGEND in his own mind!...

      October 5, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. bill dais

    Be productive, we have other networks out there with their money invested...

    Fox started after the Bird and still makes a buck...

    Why should the public pay to give the bird a good look.. The Bird is not the Word...

    October 5, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Amused

      FOX is nothing but a mouthpiece for a few ultra-conservative business moguls who are pushing a very misleading and self-serving agenda! They are not a "real" news network nor are they any kind of benevolent media organization! They are a platform for paid propoganda! PBS is the ONE and ONLY domestic unbiased media network with a benevolent mission to help educate and inform the public! The two networks have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common...

      October 5, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Surfer George

    Mr Romney:
    During the first debate, you made it clear that, if elected, you fully intended to cook Big Bird's goose because PBS is expensive and we "have to borrow the money from China to pay for it.
    Don't we have to borrow the money from China to pay the BILLIONS A YEAR in grants and subsidies to big Oil, Big Agri (corn, tobacco, sugar, more), Big Pharma and the rest of the PROFITABLE Corporate Welfare recipients?
    Do you intend to end that spending too? America can't afford it and Corporate America doesn't need it.

    October 5, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Dwight

      We should'nt be in the business of subsidizing anything that the public doesn't want or need. We susidize not to grow corn, agriculture. We basically pay to keep corn from being grown so that it is more affordable to those that pay to keep it from being grown. In other words we pay to keep from paying and the government takes a cut of this. I watched Sesame Street while growing up, Mr. Rogers, etc., but chances are that these PBS programs would be picked up by other non-subsidized stations.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Obama Mama

    If Romney is elected it will not be a "wonderful day in the neighborhood.

    October 5, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gary

    First of all I had no idea we the taxpayers were subsidizing PBS. Secondly why am I the taxpayer paying for PBS. It's time to stop all of this free lunch crap. PBS will get money from other places if the people believe they should. My kids and grand kids are too old for sesame place therefor I don't want to pay anymore. When times are tuff you have to tighten your belt something that this administration or the last one knows how to do. When you owe 16 trillion dollars you have to bold choices, get use to it if Romney wins which he should.

    October 5, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      Great point Gary. If your house has never been on fire you should have to pay taxes towards the fire department. Never been to space, your dollars shouldn’t go to NASA. Never read a book, your money won’t go towards libraries.
      It’s called a society. We do things for the general good. When you do things only for your personal good it’s called being a Republican.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Maty

    Rising tide raises all boats, Mr. Romney, even your ginourmous yacht.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lindaluttrell

    I'm still upset over the loss of Pluto (the planet; not the dog). Don't even ask me to give up Big Bird!

    October 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. George

    I nominate Big Bird for President and Elmo for Veep!

    October 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mainer

    The Go-P/Tea Nuts absolutely HATE PBS and all they stand for.....which is honest reporting. Earlier this summer a poll was conducted just asking about current events and the geography of those events. CBS, NBS and ABC watchers all compared fairly even plus or minus a point or so, the winner though were PBS viewers, not by a large margin but a clear winner. The key though were FOX viewers, the article said and I quote, "The only viewers who knew less than FOX viewers were those people that watched NO news at all.
    My Opinion: FAUX is rotting peopl's brains.....ie all the tea nuts.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sjajr

    Put 10000 pennies in a pile, now take one penny out of that pile. That is how much spending goes to public broadcasting. That works out to be .01 percent. Yep repuqueens, thats how your going to cut the deficit. I am sure that will make a big difference in helping with his billion dollars in Tax cuts. Like my economics 101 prof use to say "Do you get to enjoy that?"

    October 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kissane

    Finally someone who agrees with me. Only children watch shows like Sesame Street. Free enterprise will bring us more shows like sponge bob square pants & two stupid dogs. Maybe even bring back some of those good old B & W cartoons.
    This way Mitt and his millionaire friends have something to watch on TV whale the rest of us are off at work.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
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