Big Bird vs. Bernie Madoff: Sesame Street vs. Wall Street

Updated at 11:20 am and 12:05 pm EDT

At a fundraising concert in San Francisco last night, President Barack Obama was still having fun with Republican Mitt Romney’s call in last week’s televised debate to cut funding for the Public Broadcasting Service, saying: “Elmo has been seen in a white Suburban.”

The California audience roared at what sounded like an allusion to the televised scene of O.J. Simpson’s famous slow-speed police chase in what was actually a white Bronco.

Obama also chided Romney with a Wizard of Oz reference to his rival’s $5 trillion tax cut plan, noting that Romney was trying to pretend it didn’t cost that much. “Don’t pay any attention to that tax cut behind the curtain,” Obama said.

Now Obama, who has made several references to Romney’s war on Sesame Street since their first debate, is airing a TV ad with a cameo appearance by Big Bird. The cable-targeted ad starts tomorrow in the run of comedy shows.

The Obama campaign ad opens with Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay, “criminals… gluttons of greed.” And who is the “evil genius towering over them?” the ad asks. “One man has the guts to say so:” Romney, repeating the name Big Bird, Big Bird. Then comes the Sesame Street icon: “Big, yellow, a menace to our economy.”

Mitt Romney knows — the cartoonish ad says — “it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about. It’s Sesame Street.”

The Romney campaign slammed the ad as trivial and accused Obama of missing the big economic picture.

“I just find it troubling that the president’s message, the president’s focus 28 days from Election Day is Big Bird,” Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters aboard Romney’s campaign plane this morning. “The governor is going to focus acutely on jobs and the economy and what we can do to create a better more prosperous future.”

And the folks responsible for Big Bird, Elmo and company are asking Obama to take down that ad.

“Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns,” the workshop says in a statement “from the neighborhood” at its Web-site. “We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.”

The Obama campaign explained in a statement that, “while President Obama passed historic Wall Street reform to hold big banks accountable and give consumers tools to make informed decisions for themselves, his opponent, Mitt Romney, has shown true conviction by vowing to take down Big Bird and keep Sesame Street under control.”

“You would need to cut PBS more than 1,000 times to fill the hole in Romney’s budget promise,”  campaign deputy press secretary Adam Fetcher says.

(All of this stems from the debate in Denver at which the moderator asked Romney about cutting the federal deficit. He said he’s start by repealing “Obama-care,” and he would cut federal funding for PBS — telling moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS: “I love Big Bird… actually like you, too.” The annual deficit is about $1.3 trillion. The federal subsidy for PBS is about $450 million a year.)

Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer contributed to this report. 


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