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Would Big Bird Survive a Romney Presidency?

When Mitt Romney said in Wednesday's debate that he'd cut funding to PBS, he sparked a backlash as fans rushed to defend public broadcasting.

Most pundits agree that Mitt Romney won Wednesday's presidential debate -- but one thing he said has sparked a backlash the former Massachusetts governor probably didn't anticipate.

In discussing his plans to cut nonessential government spending, Romney aimed his crosshairs directly at public broadcasting, telling the debate's moderator, PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, "I'm sorry Jim. I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things. I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too."

The backlash was immediate. The same evening Romney made the comment, a Twitter account was created for @FiredBigBird. As of Friday, it had over 30,000 followers.

PBS fans flooded the network's Facebook page with supportive posts as well.

Facebook user John Campbell wrote that PBS had "the only intelligent programming in a sea of money grubbing stupidity.

"I will just cancel my Direct TV and increase my PBS monthly pledge accordingly," Campbell wrote. "PBS also has the only worthwhile news programming on television that isn't run by big corporations."

"I watch almost nothing but PBS -- I love Nova, Nature, History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, American Experience, American Masters, News Hour, some of the stuff on the Create channel, and on and on," wrote Facebook user Josh Ferguson. "I am extremely disgusted by Romney's comment and don't want to see PBS go away!"

PBS itself has responded to Romney's comment with an unusually strong public statement.

"We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night," the statement reads. "Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation."

The statement also pointed out that PBS funding accounts for about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget -- and that for every $1 of federal funding, PBS stations raise $6 through private donations.

"Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt," the statement reads. "Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating. ... As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas."

Others, however, think Romney is right to want to cut PBS funding.

"If PBS is so successful (which they are), than they don't need the government subsidies to survive," wrote Facebook user John Carter. "They SHOULD cut funding to PBS. Yes, it only costs $430 million. But that adds up when you cut it along with a bunch of other subsidy programs. We could save billions!"

What do you think? Is Romney right to consider cutting federal funding to PBS? Or are the benefits of public broadcasting worth the cost? 

Debbie Dyer October 06, 2012 at 12:06 PM
When an individual or family is unable to pay their bills, and they have a massive credit card debt, they are in danger of losing their home and everything they own. The United States is in exactly this same position! We absolutely must cut any and all items from the budget that are not NECESSARY for survival! The government should NEVER use taxpayer money for EXTRAS like this! If the American people want PBS/Big Bird, let private individuals fund it! We must make difficult financial choices NOW or the US economy will all go bankrupt and we will end up like many of the European companies. Romney spoke the cold, hard truth and still many Americans are plugging their ears with their fingers and whistling Dixie! WAKE UP!!!
Debbie Dyer October 06, 2012 at 12:11 PM
*countries, not "companies" There is no edit button!
John Fernandes October 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Big Turd wants to fund his tax cut on the back of Big Bird. Mitt and Ann refuse to show their tax returns for 2005-2009, since their accountants said they paid about 14%, the only reason to hide those returns is the IRS amnesty for rich tax cheats with secret Swiss accounts. After the UBS whistle blower case the IRS let rich tax cheats "pay the fine" instead of trial for the felony they committed. Maybe they should be in the big house rather than the White House.
Tammy Osier October 06, 2012 at 01:18 PM
PBS is a publically funded project - always has been. Why should the government pay for it? PBS wants to be able to broadcast whatever they like, without government interference. That's the whole point of public broadcasting. This is nothing new. It's just the only thing obama has to detract from the fact that he was in a debate with a real debater who brought facts with him and actually had the audacity to challenge obama when he cooked his facts. He's been used to being coddled by the media who put 30 second soundbites together to make him look good. Nor was he before an oopen crowd of worshippers who swooned on his every word. This time, he didn't have a liberal moderator to ask "non-questions and gotcha'" questions of his opponent. What we saw was the REAL obama (finally!).
Steve West October 07, 2012 at 02:23 PM
If PBS can raise $6.00 in public donations then they can raise $1.00 more. People need to expect that if we are going to cut spending, and we must do that to survive the outrageous government spending, then it will have to come at the likes of companies like PBS and many others. I am not sure why the government is even involved in this company. I do enjoy many programs offered by by PBS but I have no problem in what Romney said.
Karsten Torch October 08, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Wow. That didn't even make sense, much less having nothing whatsoever to do with the OP.
Karsten Torch October 08, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Debbie, Tammy, Steve - exactly right. We the taxpayer have no business funding PBS is the first place. If they can't make it off donations, then their business plan sucks and they shouldn't be broadcasting in the first place.... And yes, we all know that the amount we give PBS is a drop in the bucket compared to a myriad of other spending avenues out there, but that's not really the point, is it? We need to cut back everything that isn't absolutely essential. And this isn't essential. Sorry, Big Bird. We don't want you to be homeless and hungry, we just don't want to clothe, shelter, and feed you on our dollar. It's time to spread your wings and be an adult....
Todd Powers October 08, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I just can't wait to watch Mitt Flip-Flop on this to... waiting for ads to run in Florida where Mitt will say he was taken out of context. How about this Mitt: List everything you want to do! How about a detailed plan? I know when you were at Bain you couldn't simply say "We'll figure this out with the board". The most vague plan for our country in history.....

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