Poor Big Bird. Nobody wants to be inserted into a campaign as rough as the one currently playing out for President of the United States, and I can imagine that the eight-foot tall bright yellow bird is no exception. Now, on his behalf, Sesame Street has taken lengths to make it abundantly clear that Big Bird (and any other character, for that matter) has no place in any sort of political ad.
You probably know that story: Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sparked controversy for recent remarks that he would cut funding to PBS.
"I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird -- I actually like you too -- but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for," said Romney in last week's first presidential debate.
Opponents have attacked Romney, pointing to the fact that PBS makes up a paltry portion of the national budget. For instance, famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that "Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive." Romney supporters maintain that the government is not the primary funder of PBS and therefore Big Bird is not at risk of going away and that the idea that you shouldn't cut waste in government because it is a small percentage of the budget is ludicrous.
The Obama campaign jumped on the remarks and the president has used them as a talking point on the stump. At a campaign stop in Iowa today Romney commented on the president's odd focus on Big Bird as a campaign issue, "These are tough times, with real serious issues. So you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about Big Bird,".
Today, a new ad hit YouTube using Big Bird to hit Romney on his budget cut strategy.
"Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about, it's Sesame Street. Mitt Romney: Taking on our enemies no matter where they nest," says the ad on top of images of Big Bird. Check it out below:
The ad has already gained a lot of viral play on social media, and Sesame Street isn't pleased. Here's what they had to say in a statement posted to Twitter:
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down," said Sesame Workshop in a statement on their site.
Sesame Street had already commented on Big Bird's injection into the campaign last week:
We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. We do not comment on campaigns, but we’re happy we can all agree that everyone likes Big Bird!
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) October 4, 2012
This is not the first time in the past year or so that Sesame Street has found themselves the focal point in a political controversy. Last August, they were forced to release a statement on Bert and Ernie's sexuality, after petitions surfaced wanting the two to have the first on-air gay puppet marriage. Sesame Street responded simply, saying that "they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.