A new TV ad from President Obama's re-election campaign mocks Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for repeated references to Sesame Street's "Big Bird" and PBS as a source of savings for deficit reduction.
It also suggests that Romney sees the subsidy for PBS as a greater "menace to our economy" than misbehavior in the financial sector.
"Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about. It's 'Sesame Street,'" the ad's narrator says. "Mitt Romney: Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest."
The ad will air on national cable TV, targeting comedy channels, a campaign official said.
Romney regularly identifies federal funding for public broadcasting, which produces and airs "Sesame Street" and other popular programs, as spending he would eliminate to curb the deficit. He also raised the issue during the first presidential debate last Wednesday.
"I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things," Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer, formerly an anchor on the PBS News Hour, when asked about deficit reduction. "I like PBS, I like Big Bird , I actually like you too."
Cutting funding entirely for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn helps fund PBS, would reportedly save roughly $445 million - a tiny fraction of the federal budget deficit, which has topped $1 trillion each of the past four years.
The Obama campaign calls it an "absurd solution" to the nation's debt and deficit woes. "As the Count (and anyone who has watched him on "Sesame Street") can attest, that's just bad math," the campaign said in a statement.
Republicans, getting in on the game, insist all unnecessary spending should be scrutinized, and said Obama has not presented a serious solution to balancing the budget. It shot back with a graphic illustration using Sesame Street's Count character to track Obama's references to the TV show versus references to weightier topics at recent campaign appearances.
In a statement, Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street, said the ad should be taken down.
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down," according to the statement.
Update from ABC's Emily Friedman traveling with the Romney campaign:
The Romney campaign also weighed in, suggesting the Obama campaign should spend a little less time focusing on Big Bird.
"Right now you've got 23 million American's struggling to find work," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. "You've got household incomes going down. You've got a federal deficit - federal debt that's now over 16 trillion dollars. And I just find it troubling that the President's message, the President's focus, 28 days from election day is Big Bird. The Governor is going to focus acutely on jobs and the economy and what he can do to create a better, more prosperous future for the American public and that is a much bigger focus. We're focused on the big issues that are - the American people are focused on."