CNN host Soledad O’Brien says that her son was “devastated” after Wednesday night’s presidential debate because he believed that GOP hopeful Mitt Romney wanted to kill Sesame Street character Big Bird.
“I would stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney told debate moderator Jim Lehrer. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow from China to pay for.”
“My son was devastated when he learned that Big Bird might be killed,” O’Brien admitted on CNN the next morning. “I mean, really.”
“No one’s going to kill Big Bird, they’re just talking about taking him off of welfare,” conservative CNN contributor Will Cain disagreed. “By the way, this was a moment of levity. This was a nice moment for Mitt Romney. It was funny.”
“Right, that’s going to solve our budget crisis, not funding Big Bird,” liberal CNN contributor Roland Martin quipped skeptically. “Gotcha. Appreciate that, Mitt.”
In fact, the $444 million in subsidies the U.S. government provided to Corporation for Public Broadcasting last year only accounted for .037 percent of the nation’s $1.2 trillion deficit.
Sesame Workshop Executive Vice President Sherrie Rollins Westin recently told O’Brien that it would take a lot more than Romney’s budget cuts to kill Big Bird.
“The Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS,” she explained. “So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product — which goes back into the educational program — through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting, but when they always try to tout out Big Bird and say, ‘We’re going to kill Big Bird,’ that actually is misleading. Because Sesame Street will be here. Big Bird lives on.”
“It’s brought out because it sticks in the debate,” O’Brien noted. “The reason you raise it and you practice it is because that’s what people are going to talk about.”
Watch this video from CNN’s Starting Point, broadcast Oct. 4, 2012.