Obama camp weighing request to stop Big Bird attack ad

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

COLUMBUS, Ohio—President Barack Obama's re-election campaign said Tuesday it was weighing a request from the Sesame Workshop—the people behind "Sesame Street"—to stop using the giant yellow-feathered mascot of early childhood education in its attacks on Mitt Romney.

The organization, in a blog post, asked both Obama and Romney to discontinue any use of the beloved characters in their war for the White House.

"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," Sesame Workshop said. "We have approved no campaign ads, and, as is our general practice, have requested that both campaigns remove Sesame Street characters and trademarks from their campaign materials."

"We have received that request. We're reviewing it," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president headed to Ohio for a campaign swing.

"I will say it doesn't change the fact that there's only one candidate in this race who is going to continue to fight for Big Bird and Elmo, and he is riding on this plane," she said.

Obama has been hitting Romney for saying, in their first debate, that he would cut federal subsidies to PBS, Big Bird's nest, as part of efforts to reduce the massive government deficit.

"When Mitt Romney was given the opportunity to lay out how he would address the deficit when he said, I will take a serious approach to it, his first offering was to cut funding for Big Bird," Psaki said. "And that is absurd."

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Republicans—and some journalists—have expressed amazement that the president has harped on the Big Bird exchange since the debate. Romney was overwhelmingly seen as the winner of their first face-to-face confrontation. The second debate is on Tuesday Oct. 16.

The Obama campaign unleashed a new ad featuring Big Bird and hitting Romney for allegedly being tougher on Sesame Street than on Wall Street.

"There's been a strong grassroots outcry over the attacks on Big Bird," said Psaki. "This is something that mothers across the country are alarmed about, and we're tapping into that."

"This is about priorities and choices," she said. "And when your first offering for your plans to bring down the deficit is a combination of a $5 trillion tax cut for millionaires and billionaires and cutting funding to Big Bird, it's hard to take your plan seriously."

A campaign official had previously told Yahoo News that the reason for the focus on Big Bird stemmed from the fact that entertainment media had zeroed in on just two debate moments: Each politician's remarks on the Obamas' wedding anniversary, and the Big Bird exchange. And many independent voters who make up their minds at the last minute tend to be less partisan and often get their news about politics from those outlets.