NEW YORK -- Big Bird has never been so hot.
Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Piers Morgan, the Today show and Good Morning America all asked for appearances from the Sesame Street character on Thursday after he was unexpectedly thrust into the presidential campaign by Mitt Romney.
Sesame Workshop says the giant yellow Muppet is declining all appearances, but there was this tweet from Big Bird on the Sesame Street account: "My bedtime is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?"
Yes, Bird. During Wednesday's debate with U.S. President Barack Obama, Romney called for cutting federal funding to PBS, despite saying, "I love Big Bird." It renewed a long-running debate over subsidies to public broadcasting.
"I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," the former Massachusetts governor, a Republican, said during a deficit-cutting discussion. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too, Jim (Lehrer, PBS newsman and debate moderator). But I'm not going to... keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."
PBS chief Paula Kerger said she "just about fell off the sofa" when the issue suddenly came up during the debate. She said if the subsidy goes, so will some PBS stations.
Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting totals $450 million this year, accounting for about 15 per cent of the CPB's budget, she said. Federal money supplements the budgets of PBS's 179 stations nationally. For some of the smaller stations in rural areas, this subsidy accounts for more than half of their yearly budgets.
Considering Romney stressed the importance of education, Kerger said, she hopes he realizes the extent of educational programming PBS offers. Four out of five children under age 5 watch public television, where Sesame Street is a long-running hit, she said.
The issue quickly became a hot topic on social media, where Twitter reported a peak of 17,000 tweets per second about Big Bird.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted: "Hey, I figured out how Romney will balance the budget: sale of TV rights to broadcast the decapitation of Big Bird."
-- The Associated Press