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. adi@

    where did my post go? I didnt write the word freedom on it for it to be deleted.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jd

    Can't side with a president who brags about how he "got bin laden" and calls a person a liar.......... So long as they aren't in the room.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry

      It gets a bit old to see and hear hypocritical statements by people who somehow believe that Obama controls the smallest aspect of the economy but is somehow not responsible for ordering members of the American military to conduct an operation.

      You can't have it both ways.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      come on, everyone knows panetta directed Obama to make the order. get real. stop telling lies

      October 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JT

    So i guess my cousin's childhood will be destroyed by Mitt Romney.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • john dough

      If your cousins childhood revolves around a big yellow bird costume, it never had a chance to begin with

      October 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeremy

    There is a little known cartoon on PBS called Wild Animal Baby. The cartoon is made by the "National Wildlife Federation". The problem is that the NWF receives the same grants from the CPB and PBS stations to create their programming, and that the NWF outsources all of their animation work to a production company in china called Xin-Xin Productions. Your tax dollars and donations to the PBS stations are being used to employ chinese workers in china, who will do the work for a fraction of the cost, rather than hiring Americans to do the job. Kudos to Mitt Romney for taking a stance against throwing government money at other countries. Next lets work on eliminating free trade agreements in general.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Tax breaks to Fox News and other for profit broadcasters have a much greater cost associated with them then funding for PBS. Technically the for-profits can go after the exact same funding as PBS educational material (and the do), they just are not competing with them.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      thats an extremely liberal approach. The point is that we are borrowing from china to produce a show for PBS, and because of some free trade agreement we are actually paying chinese workers to do the work, instead of using the money to do what its intended to do, which is create American jobs. Wild Animal Baby alone employs about 300 chinese workers. When the credits role on fox news, Im pretty sure it says where its produced, and its in America. Not Beijig.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      I guess I wonder why you are OK with us borrowing from China to pay much more for Fox News and other broadcast organizations getting tax breaks and up in arms about a non-profit being paid for producing an educational program much more efficiently and effectively than the same companies?

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

      Fox News is owned and run by an Australian...

      October 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      I have nothing against Australians. Most of them are white.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      Again, you've missed the point entirely. American workers, American jobs. If Animal baby employed American workers, I wouldnt really care

      October 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      So, much of Fox's production is done outside of the U.S. too. Should their tax breaks be repealed because of it? You're being rather self-righteous about the actions of one side of the political spectrum. I can see your point (other than the random Australian comment) but I find the inconsistency very hypocritical.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      i definitely didnt make the australian comment, lol somebody is attempting to troll me I guess. Its rather amusing I must say

      October 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • cd11

      "Wild Animal Baby" is provided to individual public stations who want to air it by APT – a group that distributes programming for individual stations in individual markets to air IF they want. It is totally separate from PBS. It's just like a syndication company selling "Wheel of Fortune" to a different local stations in different markets.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. authormarkmillion

    (Scratching my head) is Big Bird part of the 47%?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tastycles

    That's where I draw the line Mitt. Over my dead body. To arms!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |


    October 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • icen_von

      Shows how much you think of Obama's four years

      October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    It's all Big Bird's Fault!!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MLatino

    So let me get this straight, if Big Bird was a private small business, then he'd be praised by Romney. But because get money from the government to help with education, he's part of the 47%... this is sooo confusing.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Zenaida

    Funny!! I enjoy this article a lot. Romney taking away PBS is definitely a mistake. He is behaving like any other money making CEO who will cut out employees' jobs in the name of profit, and who his only view of value is in MONEY and nothing else.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mat

    Anything that contributes to education in any form or fashion should be the last thing any political leader considers getting rid of. We're falling behind and most people don't seem to care.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • john dough

      Mat (really? one "t"?!) it is not the governments job to educate.................or is it????????/

      October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mat

      Yes, really one 't'. This isn't my real name, it was the name of my favorite character in Reader Rabbit. I thought it was appropriate. It is partially the government's job to educate since public schools are funded by the government. Universities even get money from the government. If we wanted that to change, we would have to start paying an arm or a leg out of pocket for an education.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. anotheridiot

    I do not have cable. I get 5 channels. Do you realize that the only channel that has quality education on it is PBS? There are always interesting shows on it. If i had kids, i would make them watch pbs so they can learn something. PBS is an good investment in this country. After seeing the stupid stuff on other channels, we should really thank PBS.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • john dough

      If you rely on one of ANY channels of television for your education, you deserve not to be able to enjoy cable.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steve

    Big bird will not get the pink slip.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. barry mitchell

    Let's give somebody the BIG BIRD !!! You could knock me over with a feather.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. insight iowa

    I personally believe the President won the debate last night. He's a very smart President. Romney told 27 lies in 35 minutes. Obama is just looking down and smirking thinking to himself... yes, that's right Romney continue to hang yourself, fact checks will be out within an hour after we close tonight... I could not have prayed for a better night! Republican/Woman/Business Owner voting straight Democratic Ticket.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldeWhyteMann

      I have been voting since 1976 and this time I fully intend to do something I have never done before.I will be voting a straight Democratic Ticket also.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
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