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Gay Bert and Ernie comments ‘misinterpreted,’ says Sesame Street writer

Nick Duffy September 21, 2018

Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie. (Matthew Simmons/Getty)

The Sesame Street writer who claimed Bert and Ernie were written as a gay couple has addressed the unfolding controversy.

Mark Saltzman, one of the writers on Sesame Street, unwittingly caused controversy in an interview with Queerty on Tuesday when he revealed, “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualise them.”

The comments led to an extraordinary statement from Sesame Workshop, which insisted the pair are only “friends,” adding: “Even though they are identifiable as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and have no sexual orientation.”

Sesame Street characters Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby and Zoe (Jason Kempin/Getty)

But Saltzman—who is himself gay—now says he was taken out of context.

Speaking to The New York Times, he said: “As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work.

“Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”

Saltzman added: “They are two guys who love each other. That’s who they are.”

The writer also said that Sesame Street should include a gay human couple, rather than puppets.

Bert and Ernie

Meanwhile, Sesame Workshop appears to have quietly deleted its original statement on the issue.

A new statement says: “Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It’s a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome.

“Bert and Ernie were created to be best friends, and to teach young children that people can get along with those who are very different from themselves.”

Bert and Ernie are considered by many in the LGBT+ community to be gay icons, with some even adopting them as a symbolic gay couple.

Bert and Ernie

After same-sex marriage was legalised in New York, fans set up a petition on Change.org asking for the show’s creators to have Bert and Ernie get married on screen.

It’s not the first time producers of the show have denied Bert and Ernie are a gay couple.

In 1994, Sesame Street boss Gary Knell said that Bert and Ernie “are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets.”

Despite this, speculation about the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship has not died down.

In 2015, the pair were at the centre of another controversy, after a cake was ordered in Northern Ireland sporting an image of Bert and Ernie along with the words “Support Gay Marriage.”

The bakers refused to bake the cake, and said that they run their business “according to Christian values and beliefs.”

More: bert and ernie, Education, Gay, LGBT, Sesame Street, US

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