“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” said the nonprofit education organization behind the PBS series. “They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics … they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
This comes after ex-“Sesame Street” writer Mark Saltzman said in an interview Sunday that he wrote the relationship between Bert and Ernie based off his own with his partner, the late editor Arnold Glassman.
“I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple,” Saltzman told Queerty. “That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert.”
This isn’t the first time Sesame Workshop has had to refute claims that the famous PBS characters were gay. In 2002, the Children’s Television Workshop threatened to take legal action against Peter Spears, the director of “Ernest and Bertram,” a parody documentary about two male puppets who become heated lovers. Even earlier, rumors swirled that the two puppets were more than just friends, with TV Guide receiving dozens of letters in 2003 attacking “Sesame Street” for condoning a homosexual relationship.
The Children’s Television Workshop had to issue a press release similar to the recent statement back then: “Bert and Ernie, who’ve been on Sesame Street for 25 years, do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the future. They are puppets, not humans. Like all the Muppets created for Sesame Street, they were designed to help educate preschoolers. Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends.”
For now, the duo will remain just pals, but that won’t stop fans from continuing to ship the two sweater-wearing icons.