WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign is out with a new TV ad, going after one of Mitt Romney's most memorable lines from last week's presidential debate: his desire to cut funding for PBS and its beloved Big Bird.
Since the debate -- which Romney was widely acknowledged to have won -- President Barack Obama has been campaigning around the country, saying his GOP challenger "plans to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s bringing the hammer down on Sesame Street."
"Elmo, you better make a run for it!" joked Obama last week at a campaign event.
The latest tongue-in-cheek ad shows pictures of notoriously corrupt financial figures -- Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and Dennis Kozlowski -- and states there is an "evil genius" who towered over them.
"One man has the guts to speak his name," says the narrator, with the ad then flashing to Romney saying "Big Bird" repeatedly -- followed by Big Bird cheerfully saying his own name.
"Big, yellow, a menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about it, it's Sesame Street," adds the narrator.
The ad ends with a cute shot of Big Bird in his nest, with his teddy bear, sleeping: "Mitt Romney, taking on our enemies no matter where they nest."
"The choice in this election is becoming more clear each day," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in response to the ad. "Four years ago, President Obama said that if you don't have a record to run on, 'you make a big election about small things.' With 23 million people struggling for work, incomes falling, and gas prices soaring, Americans deserve more from their president. Mitt Romney knows we can't afford four more years like the last four, and he will lead us to a real recovery."
During last week's first presidential debate in Denver, Romney showed off his belt-tightening bonafides by saying he wants to cut federal funding to one of America's most popular institutions.
"I'm sorry Jim, I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS," he told moderator Jim Lehrer, who has worked for PBS since the 1970s. "I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too, but I'm going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don't need."
After the debate, PBS put out a harsh statement, stating, "The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating."
"When asked how he would cut the deficit, Romney’s answer is to eliminate PBS and Sesame Street -- an absurd solution," said Obama campaign deputy national press secretary Adam Fetcher in a statement. "You would need to cut PBS more than 1,000 times to fill the hole in Romney’s budget promises!"
UPDATE: 11:26 a.m. -- Sesame Street has requested that the Obama campaign take the ad down.
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," the group said in a statement. "We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."
An Obama campaign official told The Huffington Post that the campaign has received Sesame Street's complaint and will review the concerns.
UPDATE 4:41 p.m. -- Sesame Street has revised its statement, saying that it wants both campaigns to stop using its characters.
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," reads the group's new statement. "We have approved no campaign ads, and, as is our general practice, have requested that both campaigns remove Sesame Street characters and trademarks from their campaign materials."
On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee released a graphic using the character the Count, hitting Obama for talking more about Big Bird than the economy.
This story was updated with responses from the Obama and Romney campaigns.
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