Six Republican House Members Say HIV-Positive Muppet ‘Unwelcome’ on American TV
Six Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last week sent a letter to Public Broadcasting System President Pat Mitchell, saying an HIV-positive Muppet on the children's television show "Sesame Street" would be "unwelcome" on American television, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/15). PBS officials announced last week that the South African version of "Sesame Street" will introduce an HIV-positive Muppet character on Sept. 30. How the character contracted HIV is still under discussion, but the likely cause will be through vertical transmission or a blood transfusion. Intravenous drug use and sexual practices will not be discussed on the show (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/12). The producers of the show have said that the character may be "exported" to the eight other nations that air "Sesame Street," including the United States, BBC News reports (BBC News, 7/15). In the letter, signed by committee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.), and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the representatives note that the average age of American viewers of "Sesame Street" is between two and four years old. "As such, while it is important to teach children in an age-appropriate manner about compassion for those who contract certain diseases, we would like to inquire as to whether there is other PBS programming, aimed at an older age group, which may be more suitable for such sensitive messages," the letter said. The letter also gave Mitchell until Friday to answer how much money PBS spends on Sesame Street, how much is being spent on the new Muppet, whether she will be introduced in the United States and whether corporate underwriters might participate in the decision-making process (Reuters, 7/14).
'Political Correctness Run Riot'?
Airing episodes of "Sesame Street" with an HIV-positive character in the United States would be an "abomination" and a case of "political correctness run riot," a Boston Herald editorial says. "Whatever sense this makes in South Africa," where one in nine people are HIV-positive, the editorial notes, does not exist in America, where one in 300 people is HIV-positive. The editorial concludes, "Children who watch 'Sesame Street' are usually five years old or younger. In the United States the risk of a five-year-old getting HIV from a cut finger is vanishingly small. It is way too young to worry about what HIV is or how to avoid getting it. 'Sesame Street' should stick to teaching kids numbers and letters" (Boston Herald, 7/13).
NPR's "All Things Considered" Sunday included an interview with Dr. Charlotte Cole, vice president for international education and research at the Sesame Workshop, about the HIV-positive muppet character. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Lyden, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/14).
FOXNews' "Hannity & Colmes" Friday discussed the new character with Kermit the Frog. A video clip of the interview is available in RealPlayer and Windows Media online (Colmes, "Hannity & Colmes," FOXNews, 7/12).