Public Debates Romney’s Attack on Big Bird

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- During the first 2012 presidential debate Mitt Romney made it clear that he likes Big Bird, but says it's not going to keep him from cutting federal funding to PBS.

Some of those watching the debate didn't like Romney's attack on the yellow giant. In a statement, KCPT, Kansas City's local public broadcasting station, called it disappointing that PBS became a political target.

"It's amazing to me to think that we're going to balance the budget when we're one-ten thousandth of the federal budget," said Kliff Kuehl, president and CEO of Kansas City Public Television.

Kuehl said for every dollar of federal funding that public television stations get, they raise an additional six. But he say make no mistake, without any federal funding, public television would suffer.

"You're going to end up -- in terms of public radio and public television -- you could drive all the way across the state of Kansas and the state of Missouri and you might not have any public media except in the big cities, and I don't think that's their intention."

Over the course of a year, an estimated 91 percent of U.S. households watch local programming, so it's easy to see why there was a such a buzz. But why did Romney's comment seem to overshadow some of the bigger issues from the debate? Democratic political analyst Phil Levota had a suggestion.

"The only thing he got specific about is cutting Big Bird's throat," he said. "So that's why we're talking about it. It's the most specific thing he's said the entire campaign."

Levota said that just didn't sit well with the millions of voters who grew up watching Big Bird and Sesame Street. But Republican political strategist Jason Klindt said the issue stuck out for a different reason.

"There's no doubt that PBS probably wasn't the most important one, but it's an important parcel of the bigger story," he said, "which is that what we really ought to be talking about in this campaign is where we're going to go for the next four years including, of course, taxes, but where are you going to reduce spending."

As for the fate of Big Bird, Sesame Streets' executive vice president said Romney's proposed cuts will have little to no effect to Sesame Street itself. She said most of the show's funding come from things like product sales, donations, and corporate sponsors.

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