Big Bird Has “No Comment” after Romney Snub

Big Bird

October 4, 2012; Source: Washington Post

Big Bird has refused appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Piers Morgan, “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America” after Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made one of those “You know I love you, but…” comments that let you know you’ve just been scraped off of the bottom of someone’s shoe. No wonder Big Bird is in demand; the Twittersphere blew up in response to Romney’s slight at Wednesday night’s debate, registering up to 17,000 tweets per second about Big Bird. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “Hey, I figured out how Romney will balance the budget: sale of TV rights to broadcast the decapitation of Big Bird.” No wonder he won’t come out in public.

Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, says that a remarkable 80 percent of children under the age of five watch public television, where Big Bird lives on “Sesame Street”—but really he is just renting. Sesame Workshop, the producers who make “Sesame Street,” note that their outfit is not actually part of PBS. Rather, it is an independent nonprofit that is financed through a combination of philanthropy, government funding, distribution and royalty fees, and product licensing.

Details, details. The whole episode reminded us of Romney’s promise to “get rid of” another independent nonprofit, Planned Parenthood, whose funding was also thrust into the public spotlight when Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced the now-rescinded decision to discontinue funding to the organization. PBS and Planned Parenthood, of course, have both been nonprofit political footballs for some time and both seem to have a lot of public support, but where Planned Parenthood cannot stay out of the fray because what they are being attacked on is something they are unwilling to give up, the attack on PBS has at times been based on charges of left-leaning coverage, which PBS does not wish to claim. Instead, it has tried to deflect the barb by responding that it is nonpartisan and expressing amazement at being called out.

Planned Parenthood played its hand very differently after the Komen foundation announcement. Even though the funding cut of $680,000 (in 2011) was minimal to Planned Parenthood’s total annual revenue (which was more than $1 billion in 2010), Planned Parenthood did not come out with a public statement urging the public to stop focusing on them. Instead, it leveraged the attack in a martial arts kinda way, letting Komen run headlong into the wall and basically counting on its public to get its back.

These, of course, are very different political situations. We’d love our readers thoughts on this relatively newfound fondness on the part of Republicans to wage campaigns against national nonprofits. –Ruth McCambridge

  • Mike Thompson

    What? A President Romney presumably would pardon the Thanksgiving Day turkey — but Big Bird, beloved by millions, gets the axe, with no hope for clemency? So much for “compassionate conservatism” (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

  • Hilary Crosby

    The “newfound fondness” Republicans have to attack most nonprofits (you don’t see them attacking the NRA or organizations favoring evangelical Christian home schooling), is rooted in self-preservation. As a partner in an accounting firm that serves only nonprofit organizations, I experience the nonprofit sector as supporting so many activities that ultimately cohere around improving people’s acquired intelligence. And, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll from March 26, 2012, the better educated a voter is, the more likely he or she is to vote Democratic.

    So much of what nonprofits do in the San Francisco Bay area supports nutrition, environmental protection, child and family services, the arts, health and education. Good healthy food, clear air, family stability, good health and functional schools are necessary to help us acquire and process information. That helps us become smarter, and, along with living more rewarding lives, we tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

    Here’s a link to an article that has a good summary of the results of the poll:

  • Karen M

    Seems like just another example of “anti-socialist” rhetoric we’ve been seeing from conservatives. “I have mine; go get your own”. Overwhelmingly we seem to have lost any sort of true philanthropy in this country. Sometimes it’s good to give to those less fortunate (or organizations that support the less fortunate) just because you can.

  • George

    Appears that the true message is missed or ignored. The intent is to reduce unnecessary spending. Sesame Street does need or really desire funding any longer from the Federal Government. It has built a very strong and sustainable model that will operate uninterrupted & unchanged without Fed bucks. We cannot keep spending more than we take in. They will be many more tough decisions that will have to be made – Public Television is not one of them. PT will not go away – only 8% of it’s budget came from the Fed. We know what Romney said – “….if we have to borrow the money from China to fund it – we will not keep it (sic)’ What was the solution for reducing the deficit from BHO? Raise taxes!!!!!

  • larry

    ok – i have a dozen bags of seed corn. i could; A) eat some of them this winter, or B) sell them and buy food. And if you buy them will you, A) eat them, OR, B) sell them next spring to the highest bidders?

    Romney wont borrow from China to feed Big Bird, but he (his overbearing zampolit handlers) will do so to please an elite who fail to realize that they could kill the golden goose. Empires since ancient Sumer have gone thru this cycle and we are no exception – except that by now we should know better.

    And meanwhile, is there value in brinkmanship? If we threaten to fire Big Bird would he come back lean – ala GM? Could we “fire” (and replace) the internal process of Medicare without forsaking all of its dependents? I would like our leaders to have these discussions. Except that the current environment makes this impossible. I would like the luxury to disagree in fair debate – but tea party politics look more like a cult – a collective thought disorder – than a coherent set of rational expectations. We really cant continue to run a country like this.