Politics

Bye Bye Big Bird? Mitt Romney says he’d cut funding for PBS

Mitt Romney said he would cut federal funding for PBS, despite his affection.
Matt Sayles/Associated Press/File
Mitt Romney said he would cut federal funding for PBS, despite his affection for the Sesame Street character Big Bird.

Would Big Bird go the way of the dodo bird in a Romney administration?

In Wednesday night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney said he would cut federal funding for PBS, despite his affection for the feathery icon.

“I love Big Bird,” Romney told the moderator, Jim Lehrer, who, as it happens, works for PBS. “I actually like you too, but I’m going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.”

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Republicans have criticized funding for PBS and moved to slash it in Congress. Romney, too, has pushed for the cut, ­arguing that PBS could survive with commercial advertising.

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Public broadcasting supporters say the funding PBS receives – $444 million in fiscal 2012 — would not make a dent in the deficit, but would jeopardize beloved programs, including “Sesame Street.” PBS’s chief executive, Paula Kerger, has called Romney’s proposed cut “extremely disappointing.”

When Republicans moved to cut funding last year, Patricia S. Harrison, chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, told The New York Times: “I do believe in their heart of hearts they know it’s a value, and they know by getting rid of public media, it’s not going to make one iota’s difference in the deficit, it’s not going to create jobs, it’s going to kill jobs.”

Michael Levenson

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.