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. Michael K

    We're missing the tree for the forest here.

    PBS and Big Bird are the tip of the iceberg if Romney keeps his promise to cut 40% from all spending outside of Defense, Social Security, and Medicare. (At the same time that he promises to increase Defense spending by $2 trillion and Medicare spending by $716 billion).

    He will have to cut everything else by an average of 40%. That includes embassy security, unemployment insurance, veterans benefits, Medicaid, infrastructure, food safety, Courts, research, education, you name it. Anything he wants to protect means something else would have to be cut by more than 40%.

    Completely implausible. Which means the deficit will explode.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott from NH

    We aren't going to discuss the Iraq war that cost every American family $15,000 but instead we are going to talk about $2.5 million, three cents per family???? That mind bogglingly insane.

    October 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noella Maehl

      Agree, Scott

      October 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sane Person

      Yup. Mitt would rather cut 2.5 million from the non-profit org that makes educational public television, than the 78 Billion to big oil, that posted 137 Billion in profits in 2011. He is a nice guy like that.

      October 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Greg

    Can we get the same government handout for the Chicago Cubs?

    October 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Noella Maehl

    Cannot believe what I heard from Mitt Romney's mouth regarding subsidizing PBS – We need to stop subsidizing Israel! We need to keep government money in the US. Too much is going overseas. We have bases all over the world that should shut down. No one is evaluating the situation.

    October 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • james gordon

      Rmoney has all but promised a war with iran , i guess big bird can join the military , believe me Iran is not going to be the walk in the park like iraq was ,instead of a 10 year war we will have a 50 year war and gas at $7 a gal.

      October 6, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. ronvan

    WE need to realize & understand that some things, social security, medicare – medicaid, others, AND BIG BIRD are VERY IMPORTANT!!! On the more serious side, PBS has many great shows, that our children love, and that WE LOVED! The History channel, Learning, Discovery, NATGEO, and others, DO create interest and learning! For me, this is just another screw up for Romney! I love Big Bird, wait, no I don't, wait, my political career MIGHT depend on Big Bird, so I like him!! The bottom line, as some of you have, rightly, addressed, is that we have MANY bigger problems & things that could SAVE us money other than PBS!!

    October 6, 2012 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kim

    Okay. I'm still laughing that mitt went after big bird is this man that ridiculous are you serious come on you can't think of cutting taxes for the rich but you want to cut funding to sesame street man what is the state of mind with these Republicans. To dam ridiculous.

    October 6, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • GemSparx

      Big Bird will be saved with a vote for O but Big Bird better start learning Chinese!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Judy

    Just shows the mentality of Mitt Romney. Has anyone noticed that states that vote predominately republican rank lowest in education and job pay and are the poorest states|? PBS nets 0.012% of the budget. Bet Mitt wouldn't consider cutting oil subsidies and corporate welfare.

    October 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dc

    You people are idiots! Sesame Street is a multi-billion dollar company, and in NO WAY would fold without subsidies! Do some research for a change, kool-aid drinkers!

    October 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Barbara B Eddins

    The angle of this story is immature and not appropriate. I add humor to much of my writing, but making Big Bird sound like a real person is not up to par with CNN. Corporations are not people and neither is Big Bird. I am looking for answers about PBS and the break down of funding. I support the culture, education, and news programs of PBS. I am looking for serious accurate facts; I do not care to sift through this drivel looking for vital information I need.

    October 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dave

    Big Bird? How on earth could Romney attack PBS? He's not only incompetent, he's silly.

    October 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    Romney is just mad cause he can't spell *Potato* 😉

    October 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary

    pOtAtO ... pA – tAt – tOe

    October 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GemSparx

    Obama will save Big Bird but he'll be locked up in a birdcage until he learns to speak Chinese!

    October 7, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. vince

    you know i am so glad that one stupid remark from Mitt is getting all the coverage it is, this is just one more time we see what a joke our politicians really are. our nation stands on the brink of total collapse and they have the Gaul to put it all off on a dadbern children s show that most of we American citizens help fund out of our very own pockets through donations we send in. this was not even "CLOSE" to what issues i wanted to see addressed in the debate, ROFL guess it can only get better now ?

    October 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Legolas

    No one wants Big Bird to get FIRED!!

    October 8, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
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