Four months after becoming a flashpoint in the presidential campaign, Big Bird is back in the political spotlight.
The White House announced Thursday that the longtime character from public television’s “Sesame Street” teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to film two public service announcements that encourage kids to eat healthy and get active. The White House said the PSAs will help mark the third anniversary of the first lady’s push “to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential.”
One of the PSAs shows Big Bird opting for a healthy snack as he and the first lady hang out in the White House kitchen.
The other one takes place in the East Room, with Big Bird exercising and dancing.
Flashback to October, when Big Bird was front and center on the campaign trail as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney battled for the White House. It all started in Denver, Colorado on October 4, during the first presidential debate. Romney said he would cut the federal subsidy to the Public Broadcasting Service, which airs Sesame Street, in order to help reduce the country’s deficit.
“I like PBS, I love Big Bird,” Romney said before adding that “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”
Obama pounced on the remark at a campaign stop in Colorado a day later.
“Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It’s about time,” Obama said. “We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit, but that’s what we heard last night. How about that?”
A few days later the president’s re-election campaign put Big Bird in a TV ad, sarcastically casting him as a corporate fiend akin to Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay.
“Criminals. Gluttons of greed,” a narrator in the spot said of the notorious white collar criminals. “And the evil genius who towered over them?”
A silhouette of the famous yellow bird appeared in a window, before the ad cut to clips of Romney saying “Big bird” on the stump.
“One man has the guts to say his name,” the narrator said. “Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street. Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest.”
Responding to the ad, Romney said at a campaign rally in Iowa that Obama’s focus on the remark was puzzling given the serious issues facing the nation.
“These are tough times with real serious issues so you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” Romney said. “I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs and saving our future.”
Big Bird’s appearance in the Obama campaign spot spurred the character’s parents at Sesame Workshop to ask the president’s team to take the ad down.
“Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns,” the group wrote. “We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.”