Would Big Bird go the way of the Dodo bird in a Romney administration?

In one of the more attention-getting moments of tonight’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney said he would cut federal funding for PBS, despite his affection for the famous feathery icon.

“I love Big Bird,” Romney told the moderator, Jim Lehrer, who, as it happens, works for PBS. “I actually like you too, but I’m going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.”

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Republicans have often criticized federal funding for PBS, and moved to slash it in Congress. Romney, too, has pushed for the cut on the campaign trail, arguing that PBS could survive on its own with commercial advertising.

Public broadcasting supporters say the amount of federal funding that PBS receives – $444 million in fiscal 2012—would not make a dent in the deficit but would jeopardize a range of beloved programs, including “Sesame Street.” PBS’s chief executive, Paula Kerger, has called Romney’s proposed cut “extremely disappointing.”

When Republicans moved to slash public funding for public media last year, here’s what Patricia S. Harrison, chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, told the New York Times: “I do believe in their heart of hearts they know it’s a value, and they know by getting rid of public media, it’s not going to make one iota’s difference in the deficit, it’s not going to create jobs, it’s going to kill jobs.”