Sesame Workshop CEO Addresses Big Bird's Sudden Political Relevance, Obama Ad During Abu Dhabi Media Summit

Melvin Ming - H 2012
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Melvin Ming - H 2012

Of the president's latest commercial featuring the giant yellow icon, Melvin Ming said: "[It] was a violation of our ethics. They did not have permission."

ABU DHABI -- Sesame Workshop CEO Melvin Ming addressed the third annual Abu Dhabi Media Summit here Wednesday via a satellite feed from New York amid the continuing Big Bird controversy. He was scheduled to attend in person.

"I could not come because I could not get permission from Big Bird to go to the most spectacular city in the world," he told the audience here, holding a Big Bird doll in his hand. The Sesame Street character "is used to attention but not to this extent," he quipped.

Big Bird has been in the crossfire since last week's U.S. presidential debate. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has suggested cutting the public funding for PBS and Sesame Street, while the campaign of President Obama used Big Bird in a campaign ad calling for a focus not on public TV but Wall Street reform. Sesame Workshop has requested the campaign pull the ad.

VIDEO: Obama's Big Bird Ad Hits Romney as Soft on Wall Street

The educational group's request "was being considered as of last night," Ming told the Summit. "As a nonprofit organization, we are nonpolitical," he said. It has always been the organization's policy that "we do not commit our assets" to any political campaign.

"[It] was a violation of our ethics. They did not have permission," he said. "Our goal is to reach every child in America. We don't contaminate that with anything."

Asked about Big Bird's role in the presidential campaign, the CEO said: "Big Bird is a symbol of a commitment of a generation to have commercial-free television as that first school for preschoolers. Our commitment is to be where the children are with the media that help them grow and learn."