Romney’s Threat to Big Bird Confuses Those in Other Countries

Pat Nixon welcomes Big Bird to the White House

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

Twitter exploded following the first presidential debate after candidate Mitt Romney promised to de-fund Sesame Street on PBS, resulting in dozens of parody accounts, a perplexed Big Bird, and some SNL punning. And while conservatives (who disproportionately think that PBS is liberal social engineering) were thrilled, many people in other nations were left scratching their heads.

via Robert Mackey at NYTime’s The Lede Blog:

Mr. Romney’s decision to run against Big Bird gladdened American conservatives, who have long complained of a liberal bias on public television and radio channels, but puzzled many viewers abroad, where local versions of the educational program are popular and well respected. In France, Le Monde reported that the slight against le Gros Oiseau threatened to spiral into “l’affaire Big Bird,” after President Obama — experiencing a certain esprit d’escalier — came up, a day late, with the retort: “Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It’s about time. We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit.”

The German magazine Der Spiegel explained to readers that Mr. Romney’s threat to the character that viewers of “Sesamstrasse” know as Bibo generated a Twitter-Sturm during the debate that reached maximum intensity in just 20 minutes.

In a useful roundup of the comic images of an unemployed Big Bird circulating on social networks, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported, somewhat inaccurately, that Mr. Romney had tried to soften the blow by first telling viewers, “I love Garibaldo,” which is the name the character goes by in “Vila Sésamo.”

At least some of the confusion among viewers watching the debate from outside the United States centered on the question of how Mr. Romney expected to get votes by pledging to eliminate state support for televised educational programming, and news, which is taken for granted in much of the developed world.

As Joshua Keating explained in a post for Foreign Policy, scholars at New York University reported last year that Americans spend far less per capita on public broadcasting than a representative sample of 13 other nations, including France, Britain, Germany, Japan, Australia and Canada.

Even factoring in money provided by states and local governments, Americans pay less than $4 a year for the television and radio programming they get from PBS and NPR. Canadians and Australians pay about 8 times more per capita, the French and Japanese 14 times more, Britons 24 times more and Germans 41 times more.

In a statement decrying Mr. Romney’s comments, PBS noted, “The federal investment in public broadcasting,” about $500 million a year, “equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget.”

Continue reading, including how many Americans are lied to about how much is spent on public broadcasting.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    It all goes back to this 1974 picture, taken at the height of the Watergate scandal. 

    Pat was regularly getting sloshed to the gills on a cocktail of gin and muscle relaxants, and against all orders did a short TV spot with the Bird.  At one point she started to wobble, leaned over to steady herself and ended up plucking a feather from the Bird’s groinage.  Embarrassed, she looked up to apologize, but instead ended up locking into a smokey telanovela stare into the Bird’s sensuous, heavily-lidded eyes.  Seconds later she tore off her pantsuit in a torrent of passion, and she and the Bird ended up rutting animalistically in front of a battery of cameras.

    Dick never got over the humiliation.  He tried every trick and threat in the book to make PBS edit out the Bird/Nixon rooting session from their coverage, but at this point his credibility was hanging by a thread, and the president of PBS said “No Dice”.  It’s not the kind of thing you could ever PROVE definitively, but Nixon always blamed his fatal loss of support in the Senate on his wife’s televised, drunken orgy with an ambiguously gendered public television puppet, and the Republican Party has held a grudge ever since.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    It all goes back to this 1974 picture, taken at the height of the Watergate scandal. 

    Pat was regularly getting sloshed to the gills on a cocktail of gin and muscle relaxants, and against all orders did a short TV spot with the Bird.  At one point she started to wobble, leaned over to steady herself and ended up plucking a feather from the Bird’s groinage.  Embarrassed, she looked up to apologize, but instead ended up locking into a smokey telanovela stare into the Bird’s sensuous, heavily-lidded eyes.  Seconds later she tore off her pantsuit in a torrent of passion, and she and the Bird ended up rutting animalistically in front of a battery of cameras.

    Dick never got over the humiliation.  He tried every trick and threat in the book to make PBS edit out the Bird/Nixon rooting session from their coverage, but at this point his credibility was hanging by a thread, and the president of PBS said “No Dice”.  It’s not the kind of thing you could ever PROVE definitively, but Nixon always blamed his fatal loss of support in the Senate on his wife’s televised, drunken orgy with an ambiguously gendered public television puppet, and the Republican Party has held a grudge ever since.

    • “Big” Richard Johnson

      Bravo good sir, bravo!

    • “Big” Richard Johnson

      Bravo good sir, bravo!

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    I cant help but remember Obama telling Amy Goodman at the White House Correspondents Dinner how he would not let the GOP cut funding to Public Broadcasting. Of course the GOP wants to cut the budget for Public Broadcasting .. the less informed you are the better chance a GOP candidate has of getting into office.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    I cant help but remember Obama telling Amy Goodman at the White House Correspondents Dinner how he would not let the GOP cut funding to Public Broadcasting. Of course the GOP wants to cut the budget for Public Broadcasting .. the less informed you are the better chance a GOP candidate has of getting into office.

    • L3ROYJ3NKINS

      Have you seen what’s been coming out of PBS lately? Talk about a compromised source of information.

    • L3ROYJ3NKINS

      Have you seen what’s been coming out of PBS lately? Talk about a compromised source of information.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    I would hate to see a CIA enetrainment company like PBS under-funded
    hopefully Fox & MSN can take up the slack 

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    I would hate to see a CIA enetrainment company like PBS under-funded
    hopefully Fox & MSN can take up the slack 

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    How can Conservatives be gladdened about the de-funding of public educational television?  No wonder conservatives are anti-intelectual and anti-science.

    Except for David H. Koch for funding the PBS ‘NOVA’ science show.  Go figure.

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    How can Conservatives be gladdened about the de-funding of public educational television?  No wonder conservatives are anti-intelectual and anti-science.

    Except for David H. Koch for funding the PBS ‘NOVA’ science show.  Go figure.