OK. Let’s just get this out of the way so the minority of our Romney readers can gloat: Congratulations, your candidate kicked our candidate’s ass at the debate. Romney’s one mistep: Announcing that he’d cut funding to PBS: “I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m gonna stop other things,” Romney said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too, [Jim Lehrer].”
I’m not sure who that announcement appeals to, but the one thing that Mitt Romney’s team likely didn’t anticipate was the social media response to that remark. There have been countless Big-Bird inspired memes, fake Big Bird Twitter accounts, and even Big Bird himself weighed in on Twitter. Obviously, the remark is not going to offset Romney’s debate win, but I don’t think it’s helping matters, as the position has been ripe for mockery. Yesterday, however, LeVar Burton and PBS didn’t mock. They got ANGRY.
The former Reading Rainbow host told TMZ:
“I am personally outraged that any serious contender for the White House would target as part of his campaign the children of America in this fashion.”
“Educators across the country, as well as millions of children and adults know that the programming on PBS has been responsible for significant improvements in education, literacy, math, science and life skills for generations of our children.”
In a statement, PBS piled on:
“We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night,” PBS said in a statement. “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.”
PBS CEO Paula Kerger also called out Romney for making PBS a topic of the debate in the first place.
“America’s biggest classroom” during a debate partly about education.
“The fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me,” Kerger said on CNN. “Whether you have books in your home or computer or not, almost everyone has a television set. The fact that we are in this debate— this isn’t about the budget. It has to be about politics.”
And, as Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted, there’s no actual value to the cuts other than political posturing:
It seems like a miscalculation to me. Sesame Street is a cherished institution, something that we all watched growing up and something that, as parents, many of us appreciate again. The reality is: The cut won’t really help reduce the deficit in any meaningful way, and the depriving PBS of the subsidy likely will not mean anything to Sesame Street, either (only a small fraction of PBS’s budget comes from that subsidy). Honestly, it just seems like a mean thing to do.
If Romney wanted to score some real political points, he should’ve mentioned that he also plans to cut funding to legal services, which is also in his budget. Now that actually would have a devestating effect on poverty lawyers (my own wife would lose her job, for one), but given the nation’s opinion toward lawyers in general, the announcement during the debate would’ve curried him more favor with voters, unless of course, social media made Franklin & Bash the face of the opposition.