C Is For Collusion? Federally Funded Kids' Show Amplifies White House Talking Points

Federal grants to the studio behind Sesame Street have nearly tripled under Biden

Joe and Jill Biden with the Muppets (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
March 6, 2024

C is for "collusion"? Or maybe just "coincidence"?

The White House and the federally funded children’s show Sesame Street appear in lockstep in a bid to incubate President Joe Biden from concerns about inflation.

On Tuesday, the White House touted a social media post from Cookie Monster complaining about the decreased size of cookies. Curiously, the Sesame Street resident invoked an arcane economic concept to lament the diminished state of his favorite food—one that also happens to be a popular White House talking point.

"Me hate shrinkflation! Me cookies are getting smaller," Cookie Monster said, referring to the type of inflation in which companies, instead of increasing prices, charge the same price for a smaller amount of products like potato chips, soft drinks, or cookies.

"C is for consumers getting ripped off," the White House said in response. "President Biden is calling on companies to put a stop to shrinkflation."

Sesame Street’s foray into the "shrinkflation" debate could raise questions about whether the White House and Sesame Street coordinated to push talking points to help Biden. Democrats have increasingly criticized corporations for "shrinkflation" in an effort to shift blame for rising prices off the president. According to a recent CBS News poll, 55 percent of voters say they believe Biden’s policies will contribute more to inflation, while only 17 percent expect the Democrat’s policies to slow inflation.

Leaders of Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, would certainly like to see Biden stymie concerns about inflation. In Biden’s three years in office, federal agencies have awarded $23 million to Sesame Workshop, federal spending records show. Agencies gave just $8 million to the nonprofit during the Trump years.

Sesame Workshop says it receives 5 percent of its revenues from government sources. The rest comes from philanthropies and corporations. One major donor is Unilever, the owner of brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove. Biden recently called on Unilever to end "shrinkflation" of one of its ice cream brands.

Joan Ganz Cooney, the cofounder of Sesame Workshop, is a prolific Democratic donor. She gave $300,700 to House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries’s (D., N.Y.) victory fund last year, and $266,300 in 2022 to the victory fund for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), according to campaign finance records. She donated $247,800 to the DCCC last year.

Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s president, contributed $5,600 to Biden’s campaign in 2020. Jane Hartley, the former chair of Sesame Workshop’s board of trustees, has contributed nearly $50,000 to Biden’s campaign and his political action committee. Biden appointed her ambassador to the United Kingdom. Kay Wilson Stallings, the chief of creative development at Sesame Workshop, contributed $1,000 to Biden last year.

Sesame Workshop and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.