Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, said Thursday
she was stunned at Mitt Romney's comments during Wednesday's debate promising
to pull funding from the public broadcaster.
"With the enormous problems facing our country, the fact
that we are the focus is unbelievable to me," she told CNN Newsroom (watch
the full video here).
Romney made waves with his debate comments attacking PBS in
which he references Big Bird, the popular Sesame Street character.
"I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS,"
Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer. "I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I
actually like you, too. But I'm not going to keep spending money on things,
borrowing money from China to pay for it."
Kerger said she was especially surprised Romney would attack
PBS' educational programs in light of both candidates pledging to improve the
country's education system. (You can read PBS' official statement on Romney's debate remarks here).
"We're America's biggest classroom," she said. "This is not
about the budget. It has to be about politics."
She also pointed out that government funding does not go
directly to PBS, who receives only about 15% of its budget from the government,
but to its member stations. Some of those stations receive 50-70% of their
funding from the federal government, meaning they would be shut down if
de-funded, she said.
"The fact that we were singled out early in the debate, to
me it was stunning. It was just a stunning moment," Kerger added.
While critics had plenty of harsh words for Lehrer, executive
editor of PBS NewsHour, when asked about his performance as moderator
Kerger only said, "I think it was a very complicated debate structure."