“Sesame Street” producers are getting criticized for a parody that appears to take a stab at Fox News, and the ombudsman for the show says that the criticism is justified.
In a two-year old episode that was rebroadcast on October 29, the 40-year-old PBS children’s show features Oscar the Grouch making the decision to star his own news network, called the Grouch News Network, or GNN. The skit features CNN’s Anderson Cooper filling in for Oscar as he chats with “Walter Cranky” and “Dan Rather-Not,” parodies on Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.
But when a muppet caller decides that the news is not grouchy enough, she says she is changing the channel to Pox News.
“I am changing the channel,” the irate muppet says. “From now on, I am watching ‘Pox’ News. Now there is a trashy news show.”
Immediately following the re-broadcast, viewers wrote in to both FoxNews.com and PBS, complaining that the skit was a thinly-veiled jab at Fox and was hardly appropriate for “Sesame Street’s” extremely young audience. The fact that PBS is federally funded prompted viewers to express concern at the shows possible push of a political agenda.
Hours after the broadcast aired, FoxNews.com received e-mails from readers insisting they heard “Fox” and not “Pox.”
A West Virginia viewer told FoxNews.com that her "jaw dropped" when she heard the skit's "inappropriate" material.
"I want to let my son continue to watch the show," Melissa Elam said. "But at the same time I feel a call of action to stop it ... I'm going to be watching a lot more closely now.
The next day, a blogger for Breitbart’s Big Hollywood column slammed “Sesame Street” for its “clear” political message.
“I can’t even sit my kids in front of ‘Sesame Street’ without having to worry about the Left attempting to undermine my authority,” the blogger known as Stage Right wrote.
Sesame Workshop Vice President of Corporate Communications Ellen Lewis told FoxNews.com that the show was merely a parody and would never mention Fox News directly.
And while the script sent from Sesame Workshop’s public relations’ team to FoxNews.com read “Pox,” even the PBS ombudsman Michael Getler said he thought he heard “Fox” as well.
“Everybody who wrote to me heard this as ‘Fox News,’ and I can’t really blame them. When I went and watched the tape for the first time, I thought I heard “Fox” as well, perhaps because of the association one assumes when you hear “news” right after the word. However, when I watched and listened more carefully a second time, it was clear that the character said ‘Pox’ and not ‘Fox’ and the closed captioning that runs across the screen when the sound is muted also stated ‘Pox News.’”
Getler went on to criticize producers for allowing the segment to air.
“I don’t know what was in the head of the producers, but my guess is that this was one of those parodies that was too good to resist. But it should have been resisted. Broadcasters can tell parents whatever they think of Fox or any other network, but you shouldn’t do it through the kids.”
The majority of viewers seem to agree. According to polls conducted by AOL's Pop Eater sixty two percent of voters feel that "Sesame Street" has a liberal slant.
FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.