It wasn’t a donkey or an elephant that stole the debate spotlight Wednesday night. Rather, a giant yellow bird seemed to be the morning-after punch line.

Big Bird.

That’s right, PBS’s feathered Sesame Street character.

With 10.3 million tweets spanning 90 minutes, the first presidential debate in Denver turned out to be the most tweeted event so far in U.S. political history. But Democrats and Republicans weren’t the most-talked-about in 140 characters. Big Bird was the subject of 135,332 tweets. The surge of Big Bird-inspired tweets resulted from Mitt Romney’s response to a question on government funding, and how he would tackle the growing U.S. deficit.

“I’m sorry Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for things we don’t need,” Romney said.

It took no time for #BigBird to trend on the social network. Shortly after Romney’s comments, users posted an average of 17,000 tweets per minute mentioning the popular children’s character. In the aftermath of the Big Bird mention, several parody accounts popped up on the social network  including @FiredBigBird, whose account has since been suspended, and @BIGBIRD which now has more than 21,000 followers.  

Follow Victoria Craig on Twitter @VictoriaCraig.