Big Bird Becomes A Target Of The Right In Battle Over Covid-19 Vaccines

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has a new target: Big Bird.

On Saturday, following a tweet from Big Bird’s Twitter account that encouraged Covid-19 vaccinations, Cruz responded, “Government propaganda … for your five year old!”

Cruz, who has seldom missed an opportunity to seize on pop culture as means to whip up a political firestorm, followed up with a number of other tweets to make his point.

Big Bird was among the Sesame Street characters who participated in a CNN town hall on Saturday morning called The ABCs of Covid Vaccines. Also appearing were Dr. Sanjay Gupta and anchor Erica Hill.

For his part, President Joe Biden on Sunday responded to Big Bird’s tweet, writing, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”

The Centers for Disease Control last week issued guidelines recommending Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11. Although children are at a lower risk of being infected, the CDC noted that they can still get very sick from the virus, with short and long term health implications, and they can spread it to others.

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Cruz’s criticism was matched by some right wing commentators, including Newsmax’s Steve Cortes, who called the Big Bird tweet “evil.” “Your children are not statistically at risk, and should not be pressured into a brand new treatment. Do Not Comply!”

In addition to the CDC guidance, the FDA has given emergency approval to the vaccine for children. Cortes, however, has railed against vaccine mandates.  Following a Mediaite report that his employer, Newsmax, will comply with upcoming OSHA vaccine requirements for employee vaccinations or regular testing, Cortes vowed not to comply to public or private mandates. It should be noted that Big Bird’s tweet was a recommendation, but not promoting a mandate.

Politicians have seized on beloved characters, from Teletubbies to Paw Patrol, not just to make a point but to draw lots and lots of attention. Big Bird is actually no stranger to being catnip (pardon the pun) for political outrage. In the 2012 presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney invoked the character’s name in making a point about government funding for public broadcasting. President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign followed up with a mocking TV ad. Big Bird also has been used a symbol by advocates of continued government funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — i.e., why would you want to cut off that lovable character?

A spokesperson for the Sesame Workshop did not immediately return a request for comment.

Charlie Sykes, the conservative commentator and founder of The Bulwark, wrote, “The fight over Big Bird is our dumbest yet.”

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