In his budget proposal last week, President Donald Trump revealed that he hopes to successfully eliminate all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding to PBS and NPR.
Such a decision would “devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education,” Patricia Harrison, the president and CEO of CPB, said.
But Trump isn’t the first politician to take aim at public media in order to appear serious about cutting down the federal budget. During a 2012 presidential debate, Mitt Romney famously said that while he liked Big Bird, he would kill the PBS subsidy if he were president.
Still, there’s something slightly different about Trump’s relationship to Big Bird and co. On multiple occasions, over multiple decades, “Sesame Street,” the show more closely associated with PBS than perhaps any other, took shots at the self-admitted and well-documented grudge-holder, calling the now-president “Ronald Grump” and building entire storylines around his greed and callousness.
The first time Ronald Grump appeared in a 1988 episode, he didn’t look much like Trump at all. But he did convince Oscar the Grouch into letting him create Grump Tower on his lot, and tricked him into signing a contract that required 40 bags of trash ― which Oscar loves ― should he ever want Grump to leave.
The second time Ronald Grump appeared on “Sesame Street,” he had a much greater resemblance to Trump. Played by Joe Pesci for the show’s 25th anniversary episode in 1994, Grump tried to convince all of Sesame Street that the changes he hoped to make to their neighborhood would be for the better. From the top of the Grump Sky Cafe, you could even see his theme park, Grump World.
“Hey look, I love you people,” Grump said. “You deserve some of the finer things. Trust me, you won’t miss all this.” When people protested that they liked Sesame Street just the way it is, however, he erupted.
“OK, OK, that’s it!” he yelled. “I tried to be nice to you people! But you don’t want to listen? That’s it. You got two weeks. Pack up and leave.”
The third time Ronald Grump showed up on the show was in a 2005 episode titled “Grouch Apprentice.” The puppets marveled at the toupee-wearing Grump, who had the “most trash of any grouch in the world.” But when he started mistreating the puppets around him while trying to find a helper ― and yelling “You’re fired” when he got mad ― the puppets eventually decided to fire him.
There is some good news for “Sesame Street” fans, though: Even if Trump secretly wants the show gone, he’s not going to be able to make it happen. Thanks to a deal “Sesame Street” made with HBO in 2015, it’s not going anywhere soon, Ronald Grump be damned.