David Jackson, USA TODAY
October 6. 2012 - Who knew that the political player of the week would be Big Bird?
The finely feathered children's friend took center stage this week after Mitt Romney pledged to cut funding for public broadcasting -- even though "I like Big Bird" -- and President Obama began mocking his opponent's proposal.
"Somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird," Obama told backers yesterday in Cleveland, throwing other Sesame Street players into the mix.
"Elmo, you better make a run for it," Obama said. "Governor Romney is going to let Wall Street run wild again, but he's going to bring the hammer down on Sesame Street."
The audience chanted, "Save Big Bird! Save Big Bird! Save Big Bird!"
During Wednesday night's debate, Romney listed the Public Broadcasting Service as one of the cuts he would make to reduce the federal debt, making a nod to moderator and former PBS host Jim Lehrer in the process.
"I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," Romney said. "I'm going to stop other things.
"I like PBS -- I love Big Bird," the GOP candidate told Lehrer. "I actually like you, too. But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."
Romney' invocation of Big Bird was an attempt at preemptive defense -- Republicans have advocated PBS cuts for years, and Democrats have responded every time by trotting out Big Bird and his friends.
The thing is: PBS cuts would not kill Big Bird or any of his Sesame Street neighbors.
Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Sesame Workshop, told CNN that it "receives very, very little funding from PBS. So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship.
"So quite frankly," she added, "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 is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here."