Mitt Romney on Tuesday slammed President Obama for talking about Big Bird on the campaign trail.
"These are tough times, with real serious issues. So you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about Big Bird," Romney said at a campaign event in Iowa. "I actually think we have to have a president who talks about saving the American people."
“I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you, too,” Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, the host of PBS's "NewsHour." “But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."
Team Obama immediately seized on the remark to attack the GOP presidential nominee.
Obama slammed Romney on the debate comment at a Thursday rally in Denver, saying "I mean, thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It’s about time."
The fight over the yellow puppet, a popular figure on the Sesame Street, came to ahead on Tuesday when Obama's campaign released a hard-hitting ad attacking Romney for his remark on cutting PBS funds.
The ad compared Big Bird to corporate titans prosecuted for financial misdeeds.
"Bernie Madoff. Ken Lay. Dennis Kozlowski: Criminals. Gluttons of greed. And the evil genius who towered over them?" a voice-over says as a silhouette of Big Bird moves on screen.
Sesame Street Workshop, the group behind the popular children's show, has requested the Obama campaign take down the ad; the Obama campaign said it would review the request.
The Obama campaign punched back at Romney Tuesday afternoon in a statement from spokeswoman Lis Smith, who pointed out Romney had repeatedly cited Big Bird himself.
“If anyone should be scratching their heads, it’s the American people when Mitt Romney says that he’ll reduce the deficit and pay for $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by getting rid of PBS and Big Bird, which make up 1/10,000th of the federal budget," Smith said. "That’s not a serious deficit reduction plan – it’s a joke.”
While Romney's swipe at the new Obama ad came at the top of his remarks, the Republican presidential candidate spent most of Tuesday detailing his proposals on farm policy for his supporters in Iowa, a crucial swing state.
Romney advocated the end of the inheritance tax and the repeal of environmental regulations that affect farms.
"We ought to kill the death tax," Romney said. "You paid for that farm once, you ought not pay for it again."
Romney also said the president should have worked harder to get a farm bill passed in Congress, pledging he would do more to bring the chambers together.
"People have been waiting a long time for a farm bill," Romney said. "The president has to show the leadership to get the House and Senate together."
Romney also shared a previously untold story of having met one of the Navy SEALS killed during the recent attack in Benghazi, Libya. The Republican nominee said the man was a guest at a Christmas party he and his wife, Ann, had inadvertently crashed, and praised his service in the attack on the American diplomatic mission.
— Amie Parnes and Daniel Strauss contributed. This post was updated at 3:35 p.m.