NEW YORK – Big Bird is once again at the center of uninvited controversy in the last stretch of the presidential campaign. Trying to seize on one of the most memorable lines in last week’s debate, president Obama’s camp approved a new ad Tuesday mocking Mitt Romney's vow to end federal funding for public broadcasting.
Romney's campaign was quick to dismiss it as an example of Obama being small-minded, while the foundation behind Big Bird's program, "Sesame Street," asked that the ad be taken down.
The satirical spot, set to air on national broadcast and cable TV stations, shows images of convicted financiers, including Bernie Madoff and Enron's Ken Lay, and suggests Romney thinks Big Bird is behind their crimes. "Only one man has the guts to speak his name," the ad says.
In response, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign sent out a graphic using the image of Sesame Street’s “Count” and said that as soon as the Obama campaign “starts moving on to something more substantive … we’re more than happy to do the same.”
Romney said in last week's nationally televised debate with Obama that, if elected, he would end federal subsidies for the Public Broadcasting Service to help balance the budget. PBS airs "Sesame Street."
“I like PBS. I love Big Bird,” he said. “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Obama seized on that comment the day after the debate and has used it every day since to poke at Romney.
"He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street. Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird," Obama joked at a campaign rally in Madison, Wis., the day after the debate.
But Sesame Workshop didn't see it as a laughing matter.
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," the organization said in a terse, two-sentence statement. "We have approved no campaign ads and, as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign was reviewing Sesame Workshop's concerns.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.