Matt Schlapp Calls for Defunding PBS Over 'Sesame Street' Content Choices Ernie, a muppet from the popular children's series "Sesame Street," appears with new character Ji-Young, the first Asian American muppet, on the set of the long-running children's program in New York on Nov. 1, 2021. (Noreen Nasir/AP)
By Fran Beyer | Wednesday, 17 November 2021 01:13 PM
Matt Schlapp, political activist and chair of the American Conservative Union, called out "Sesame Street" for its decision to add an Asian-American character to the show — and declared producer PBS should be defunded.
In a tweet Tuesday, Schlapp blasted the children’s show after it announced the newest cast member would be Ji-Young, the program’s first-ever Asian-American muppet.
"What race is Ernie is Bert? You are insane PBS and we should stop funding you," Schlapp wrote.
He also linked to an Associated Press report in which producers said they hoped the new muppet would help stem rising anti-Asian-American prejudice.
Ji-Young is Korean-American and puppeteered by Kathleen Kim. She’ll make her debut in a Thanksgiving Day special featuring "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" film star Simu Liu, tennis champ Naomi Osaka, and TV host Padma Lakshmi.
It's not the first time the kid-centric "Sesame Street" had angered conservatives.
Earlier this month Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, criticized the show when muppet Big Bird tweeted from an official account that he’d gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. The post came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccine for children aged 5-11.
PBS receives some public funding but also gets significant revenues from private donations and grants. It’s been airing "Sesame Street" since its first episodes in 1970.
The show has long been used to promote messages about health, respect, and inclusion. It’s also been accused of having a liberal bias, with President Richard Nixon criticizing public broadcasting during his tenure in the White House, The New York Times reported at the time.