By Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
Who knew Sesame Street's Big Bird would play a role in Wednesday's presidential debate in Denver?
About 30 minutes into the verbal contest between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the former governor explained that he would cut what he considers non-essential items in the budget, including cuts to PBS, which employs debate moderator Jim Lehrer.
"I'm sorry Jim. I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things," Romney said. "I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too."
At that point, someone in the Twitterverse responded by creating a @FiredBigBird account, which, as of this writing shortly after 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, had almost 9,900 followers.
"I worked with Big Bird. I served with Big Bird. You, sir, are no Big Bird," The Lance Arthur, @thelancearthur, of San Francisco tweeted.
"Why is there no Muppet-vision way to watch the #debate?" tweeted Ryan Penagos of New York City, also known as @Agent.M, executive editorial director of Marvel Digital Media Group and Marvel.com.
"Big Bird, you have two minutes for rebuttal," tweeted Ina Fried, @inafried, of San Francisco, the senior editor for a website called All Things Digital.
And Rick Klein, senior Washington editor at ABC, tweeted that Big Bird had no comment and "does not understand why he's in the news." Klein added, "I'm actually not making this up."
In fact, the Twitter Government account, @gov, tweeted that the phrase "Big Bird" had generated about 17,000 tweets per minute.
Facebook users chimed in too, with someone creating a page called "Big Bird for President." As of 10:20 p.m. ET, the page had about 460 "Likes."
"I am in," commented Facebook user Matthew H. Johnson.
"Go Big Bird!," commented Facebook user Brent Rochford.
Portland, Ore., resident Sam Chapman responded to the buzz by creating an indiegogo.com campaign to "Save Big Bird." All funds from the campaign go to PBS, according to the indiegogo site. "Let's show PBS some love," the webpage read.
Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz says the debate was the most tweeted about political event in U.S. history
Watch: The entire first presidential debate