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. ucsb1975

    I just heard President Obama deliver a funny line ... it went something like ... Mitt Romney wants to deregulate Wall Street while cracking down on Sesame Street. Very funny and true. I always thought that Sesame Street was a good investment in early education. Pretty pathetic that this is supposed to be a shinning example of government waste.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. polly

    Jon....Obviously neither you or your children have had the cojones to serve for our freedom.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Polly: Obviously, you don't have the brain to understand anything.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sherri

      I am always so amazed how adults can blast each other and not have civil conversations about differing opinions, as I have just witnessed during this exchange here. My 7-year old heard the comments that Mitt Romney said regarding cuts to PBS and his reaction was that it was not fair and that he would write Mitt Romney a letter expressing his opinions. He did that this morning and I put the letter in the mail to Mr. Romney's campaign headquarters. The point is – we all have an opinion to express. If we could learn to express our opinions as this 7-year old did, in a courteous and forthright manner, we might have a different political landscape in this country!

      October 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Droman

    I can't believe how this liberal media all they can talk about is big bird. It's the only thing they can complain about. IF getting a job means loosing Big Bird, then so be it. Dems are shocked,to see the REAL Romney open up of can whoop A$$. The problem here is that Obama's Admin and it's fellow media, has poisoned people's view of who Romney is. Now ,when the REAL Romney appeared on the debate they saw who he relly was, and Dems. have nothing else to say, but bye, bye BIG BIRD.....

    October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paulie

    But seriously do you think the people who own the Sesame Street franchise need our tax dollars? Cant Big Bird, Ernie and Bert fend for themselves? Think how much merch they sell!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Just think how much we would save if the oil companies didn't have those fat tax breaks.

      Sesame street educates our kids. If your concerned about saving money lets look at real meaningful cuts.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulie

      Sesame Street shouldnt educate your kids. You should educate your kids!

      October 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • cd11

      The people that own the Sesame Street franchise are NOT PBS. They supply the program to PBS. And by 'supply', I mean sell. PBS does not get the profit the Children's Workshop makes.

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

    This bird has been around for years he or she is a important staple in american lives, true.
    But the exchange rate isnt fair-im sure he Big bird makes more than me and his t-shirts and toys and books and website should produce enough income to replace the feds cash.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mongo

    Romney will ... harvest big bird ... harvest your children ... harvest you when you are to old to work.
    Corporate america will make a tidy profit and the middle class will become surfs to the new oligarchy.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. adrifter

    Curious how Mitt Romney is all for improved education, yet he wants to kill off Sesame Street which has been teaching children basic literacy and numeracy skiils for decades. Any expert on childhood development will tell you that what a child learns in the first five years can affect that person for the rest of his or her life. Sesame Street is an admired example of childhood education which has been copied all over the world. Instead of celebrating it and preserving it, Romney wants to kill it so he can give $2 trillion to the military.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DrScott622

    So Nitt Witney wants to create all these jobs for Americans by starting off by giving Big Bird his pink slip in the form of a voucher!! And he "won" the debate?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tab

    I realize the article was intentionally cheeky, but I find little humor. If Mitt was really interested in cutting spending, start at the state level and "pork" included in every bill passed. Let's invest in real infrastructure, including PBS, which is the country's "largest classroom" (said accurately by PBS President in interview). Republicans want to cut Education, Environmental Protections and Drill-baby-Drill. Our country's middle class and poor wouldn't survive 4 years of Romney as President.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big Burd

    Let BB go spout his pinko liberalism on public access!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mongo

    You can't debate with Romney because he changes his views and lies in the process. Debate is futile.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Golden Girl

    Big Bird won't "lose his job" without government money. His employer will just have to spend more responsibly.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Paulie

    So typical of the liberal mindset. Under Obama 25 million people middle class and poor are out of work and this is no big deal. God forbid Big Bird (who isnt even real- he is a trademark of a million dollar corporation that sells merchandise) lose his job and government money!!!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. James

    Great, that's .038% of the Federal budget deficit for 2012. The NEA is .012%. Now, about that other 99.95%...

    Anyone who talks about CPT and the NEA when discussing the deficit is NOT SERIOUS ABOUT CUTTING THE DEFICIT. It's like telling someone to search their couch cushions for nickels to keep from being foreclosed. It's meaningless and speaks to a lack of seriousness on the part of a presidential candidate to even bring it up.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. r

    BB and PBS can go pluck themselves.

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