Save Big Bird, take Lehrer.
That pretty much sums up the mood of the country yesterday, in the day following the first presidential debate.
During that debate, Republican Mitt Romney repeatedly rode over the moderator, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, and then proceeded to tell voters that, if given the chance, he’s planned on running over Big Bird too. Here’s what Romney said:
“I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS,” he told moderator Jim Lehrer, who has worked for PBS since the 1970s. “I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too, but I’m going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.”
Romney claimed his malice towards PBS was motivated by the budget deficit, but in fact Republicans have been trying to kill PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for nearly two decades – and it’s not about the deficit, it’s about far-right ideology. As I pointed in my earlier post, Republicans think PBS, and shows like Sesame Street specifically, are indoctrinating American children in liberalism.
That’s why Mitt Romney has joined the Big Bird- bashing brigade. Not for the budget. For the far-right of the party. It’s the same reason Romney has shown a recent interest in Lyme disease. These positions seem obscure until you dig a little deeper and realize that Mitt Romney is actually, once again, playing to the fringes that have taken over the Republican party.
Fortunately, the head of PBS, Paula Kerger, is having none of it. She went on CNN and blasted Romney.
“With the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me,” she said. Later, she called it a “stunning moment.”
We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.
The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.
PBS went on to note that surveys show Americans love PBS, don’t want to see it cut. She also pointed out that PBS raises six times as much money as it gets via federal funding.
I’ve been arguing for 16 years that Democrats should pick up the Big Bird mantle and slam it down on Republicans’ heads. Going after PBS is “trying to kill Big Bird,” I told them. My former bosses weren’t interested in the messaging. Fortunately, America is.
PS Brilliant satire from Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post, in an article titled “Mitt Romney is right about Big Bird.” A quick excerpt, but go read the whole thing:
Frankly, I have always had problems with Big Bird. I don’t know what he is. He is six years old, according to the show’s count, but I have suspicions that he is in fact a fully grown man in a bird suit.
I am not a muppet hater. But I would be curious if Big Bird is capable of supporting himself without government aid. He sounds like a 47 percenter to me — have you ever seen him pay taxes? Just because you are six years old and a bird does not mean I should have to pay for entitlements like food. Who is paying for the lavish nest that he shares with his teddy bear, Radar? Where are the adults in his life?
When is he going to get a job? He can’t still be six years old. That is not how time works. I am no longer six, and Big Bird was six before I was.