Big Bird to Obama: Take down your TV ad
In the 30-second TV ad and an accompanying statement, the president’s re-election team needled Republican challenger Mitt Romney for focusing on cutting government support to “Sesame Street” distributor PBS, which would do little to reign in excess spending, instead of offering specific details about financial regulations needed to prevent financial fraud, such as the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernie Madoff.
“Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street,” says the narrator in the spot, set to run on cable TV nationwide. “Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest.”
But Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind the long-running educational show, wants the ad removed.
“We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down,” according to a statement from Sesame Workshop.
The Obama campaign has received the request and is “reviewing it,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The 8-foot-tall roller-skating paragon was thrust into the political fray last week during the presidential debate when Republican Mitt Romney mentioned cuts to PBS he would champion if elected president in the Nov. 6 election.
“I like PBS. I love Big Bird. But I’m not going to … borrow money from China to pay for it,” Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, a PBS anchor, apparently showing his determination to reign in the U.S.’s roughly $16 trillion dollar debt.
Obama and Romney also sparred over Wall Street regulatory reforms made in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which the Democratic incumbent championed and said provides crucial oversight of financial services companies. Romney, a former private equity executive, said some of its provisions are needed but the overall bill is a bloated job-killer that needs to be replaced. He did not specify what changes he would make.
The Romney campaign criticized the president’s team for talking about Big Bird rather than the millions of Americans struggling under a sluggish economy.
“Four years ago, President Obama said that if you don’t have a record to run on, ‘you make a big election about small things,’” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. “With 23 million people struggling for work, incomes falling, and gas prices soaring, Americans deserve more from their president.”
Some Democrats on Tuesday criticized the advertisement for drawing attention to what many thought was a weak debate performance by Obama, who failed to reinforce many of his campaign’s critiques against Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
It makes financial sense for the Obama campaign to defend its feathered friend.
According to Federal Election Commission, Sesame Street Workshop executive Joan Cooney gave $30,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, a fundraising account shared by the president’s campaign and broader Democrats. Maura Harway, a vice president of project finance at Sesame Street Workshop, gave $1,250. Brian Henson, chairman of Jim Henson company, which created Big Bird, gave $10,000 to Obama Victory Fund.
Republicans piled on. The Republican National Committee tweeted: “The Obama Campaign Count: 8 mentions of Big Bird, 5 mentions of Elmo. 0 mentions of Libya and the economy.”
Reuters.com social media editor Matthew Keys contributed to this report.
Image: A demonstrator dressed as Sesame Street’s Big Bird holds a sign, which reads “Cut Big Oil Not PBS”, outside a campaign rally with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Abingdon, Virginia October 5, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder