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The Tweet Beat: PBS’s Presidential Debate Event at the Newseum

A preview of “The Choice 2012” and a call-to-arms to save Big Bird.

Back in 1988, PBS’s Frontline had the idea to create a biographical film about the two presidential candidates, George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. The producers were surprised by the powerful narrative that emerged from combining the two men’s stories to become The Choice 1988.

The documentary is now a PBS election-season tradition, and last night, before the first of the 2012 presidential debates, a crowd of PBS executives, donors, and journalists gathered at the Newseum to preview The Choice 2012 before settling in for what turned out to be a debate in which Romney put the public broadcasting company on his theoretical budget chopping block.

Despite the CBS and CNN instant polls that showed Romney winning this initial meeting of the candidates, the mood in the Annenberg Theater was jovial. Applause often accompanied Obama’s remarks, and laughter was sprinkled throughout. However, when Romney intimated that despite his love of Big Bird, PBS would be one of the first “nonessential” government-funded operations he would cut, a quiet gasp rippled through the room.

With that, Big Bird and PBS fans took to the social networks—PBS itself offered debate partygoers eight Twitter handles and three hashtags at which to “follow the conversation”—to tweet and post in defense of the Sesame Street character.

By the time party-goers returned home, Big Bird was trending on Twitter. And this morning we found @BigBirdRomney already live and tweeting to some 8,000-plus followers. (The account has since been suspended.)

While the traction for The Choice 2012 that PBS was hoping to gain from the event last night may have been overshadowed, at least it was one of their own stealing the spotlight.

See below for a selection of Big Bird-related tweets.

  • Lisa Marie

    OMG I have been following this on twitter and it definitely made the debates much more enjoyable,

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