NEW YORK - Big Bird has never been so hot.
Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Piers Morgan, the Today show and Good Morning America all asked for appearances from the Sesame Street character on Thursday after he was unexpectedly thrust into the presidential campaign by Mitt Romney.
Sesame Workshop says the giant yellow Muppet is declining all appearances, but there was this tweet from Big Bird on the Sesame Street account: "My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?"
Yes, Bird. During Wednesday's debate with President Obama, Romney called for cutting federal funding to PBS, despite saying, "I love Big Bird." It renewed a long-running debate over subsidies to public broadcasting.
"I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," the former Massachusetts governor said during a discussion of the deficit. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too, Jim [Lehrer, PBS newsman and debate moderator]. But I'm not going to ... keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."
Obama brought up his opponent's plans for Big Bird during a campaign stop Thursday in Madison, Wis.
"I just want to make sure I've got this straight: He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street," Obama said of Romney. "Thank goodness somebody's finally cracking down on Big Bird! Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits!"
PBS chief Paula Kerger said she "just about fell off the sofa" when the issue came up. She said if the subsidy goes, so will some PBS stations.
Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting totals $450 million this year, accounting for about 15 percent of the CPB's budget, she said. Federal money supplements the budgets of PBS's 179 stations. For some of the smaller stations in rural areas, this subsidy accounts for more than half of their yearly budget, so many can't operate without it.
The issue quickly became a hot topic on social media, where Twitter reported a peak of 17,000 tweets per second about Big Bird.