News Column

Mitt Romney Hit on 'Big Bird' Takes Wing

October 5, 2012

Gary Levin

A day after the Twitterverse exploded in reaction to Mitt Romney's vow to fire Big Bird and cut PBS' federal funding, Sesame Street declined to join the political fray, turning down requests from TV talk shows for an appearance by the yellow avian.

But others voiced support on social media and elsewhere, reigniting a debate about taxpayer funding of public broadcasting. One Twitter user created a @FiredBigBird account and sent a manipulated photo of Big Bird on a Depression-era bread line (caption: "This is now my life"). And 8-year-old Cecelia Crawford of Alabama sent a letter to the Romney campaign, obtained by the Huffington Post, pleading for "my favorite show on earth."

"People are certainly talking about it," PBS spokeswoman Anne Bentley says. "Moms, parents, teachers and educators have been vocal in their support."

"I like PBS. I love Big Bird," Romney said. "But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for." Technically, the funding does not go directly to PBS or NPR. It's sent to NPR outlets and PBS' 179 local stations to help pay member fees for the right to air programming.

Sesame Street is funded mostly by "licensing revenue, corporate sponsorships and philanthropic donations," executive Vice President Sherrie Westin says. Even so, "PBS is our longtime distribution partner, and without them we couldn't reach all children in the country."

Big Bird was not made available for comment. But on Twitter on Thursday, BB said: "My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?"

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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