Having almost recovered from suggesting that 47% of American voters were scroungers, Mitt Romney didn’t waste time retaining the nasty mantle in America’s presidential election campaign. In a performance that most felt won him the first election debate with Barack Obama, Romney said that he would cut public funding to PBS, the broadcaster of Sesame Street. Romney made clear that Sesame Street was exactly what he had in mind by saying, “I love Big Bird… But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”
America has rushed to Big Bird’s defence. Obama joked that it was time somebody got tough on Big Bird, a FiredBigBird Twitter account quickly attracted 30,000 followers, and parents and children have uploaded videos of support to YouTube. Romney’s plans to rein-in Big Bird go back almost a year, when he told an audience that “Big Bird is going to have advertisements”, and he taps into a general misconception amongst Americans that PBS claims huge quantities of government money. In 2011 an opinion poll found 40 per cent of Americans believed PBS accounted for between 1 and 5 per cent of government spending. The actual figure is 0.0001 per cent, between 1 and 5 per cent of US government spending would give public broadcasting about $300bn to play with.