Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney (2nd R) poses with some of the cast during a 40th anniversary street naming celebration in New York, November 9, 2009. (Photo : Reuters)
The first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney in Denver last night set off a flurry of activity among viewers online. The event marked a landmark among political events on Twitter with over 10 million tweets sent and many memes and spoof Twitter accounts made.
Twitter reported that 10.3 million tweets were sent during the Denver debate, making it the most tweeted-about event in U.S. politics. The debate beat out both the Republican National Convention, which hit 4 million tweets, and the Democratic National Convention, which hit 9.5 million tweets.
According to Twitter, the most Tweeted-about moments of the debate included: moderator Jim Lehrer's "Let's not" to Gov. Mitt Romney topic request, President Barack Obama's "I had 5 seconds" to Lehrer's time limit and the discussion on Medicare and vouchers.
By Thursday morning, Jim Lehrer, PBS, Big Bird and Romney continued to trend on the social media site.
Jim Lehrer's moderating, or lack there-of, sparked among the most tweets and memes Wednesday night. With only 12 tweets, the spoof handle @SilentJimLehrer garnered over 9,000 followers over the night. The account's most popular tweet, "...I...so, I...guys...," racked up more than 5,000 retweets and 600 favorites.
During the debate, Romney caused quite the wave of reaction after telling Lehrer, "I'm sorry Jim. I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things. I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too."
However, cutting the publicly funded network would probably not make a big, or even little, dent in any attempt to fix the economy. Mother Jones reported that the Center for Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS, only makes up .00014 percent of the federal budget.
True to fashion, Twitter responded with the parody account @FiredBigBird, which by Thursday had over 27,000 followers. Another parody account, @BIGBIRD, also caught the attention of the public, gaining more than 20,000 followers.
Sesame Street, which would see its long-standing show cut if Romney is elected in November, also responded to the GOP nominee's comment. It tweeted, "Big Bird: My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?" The popular tweet elicited over 2600 retweets and 389 favorites less than an hour after it was sent.
Sesame Workshop, however, also made sure to let everyone know that it is a non-partisan organization. It tweeted, "We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. We do not comment on campaigns, but we're happy we can all agree that everyone likes Big Bird!"
Romney's Big Bird comment may have also struck a nerve with parents. On Thursday, a Change.org petition, "Mitt Romney: I stand with Big Bird," began making the rounds on Twitter. By mid-morning, the petition had over 140 supporters.
The next debate will be held on October 11 between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice president nominee Paul Ryan at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. The next two presidential debates will be held on October 16 at Hofstra University in New York and October 22 at Lynn University in Florida.