Mitt Romney added not only Big Bird to his list of enemies last night, but LeVar Burton as well. Burton, the former host of “Reading Rainbow,” was furious Thursday after Romney said he would cut federal funding to PBS, the network his show used to be broadcast on.
“I am personally outraged that any serious conrtender for the White House would target as a part of his campaign the children of America in this fashion,” Burton told TMZ. “Educators across the country, as well as millions of children and adults, know that the programming on PBS has been responsible for significant improvements in education, literacy, math, science and life skills for generations of our children.
“PBS represents .00016 percent of our nation's budget, yet this free resource benefits kids across all economic circumstances.”
Burton’s outburst follows Wednesday's presidential debate, during which Romney said he would cut government subsidies to public broadcasting. But Romney said still he “loves Big Bird,” which made the giant yellow puppet a nationally trending Twitter topic almost immediately.
“Defunding PBS directly punishes the less fortunate by removing this trusted and extraordinary educational resource available to all,” Burton continued. “On behalf of America’s children, I can’t stay silent. I encourage you to join me in fighting this short-sighted and frankly mean-spirited attack on our children.”
Burton's comment echo the concerns of many voters who favor keeping PBS’ federal funding, which represents just $445 million out of a $3.5 trillion annual budget. The Nieman Journalism Lab reported that a government funded public media only costs $4 per person in the United States.
Burton’s “Reading Rainbow,” which ran from 1983 through 2006, stood alongside “Sesame Street” as PBS’ most recognizable children’s programming. Burton encouraged millions of kids to read by exploring classic and modern works of literature with illustrations and songs.