Sesame Street has released a bitter statement claiming Bert and Ernie cannot be a gay couple because they are simply puppets.
This week, writer Mark Saltzman - who was in a relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman - revealed in an interview with Queerty that he wrote the two characters as a gay couple.
He said: "So, it was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street.
“So, I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple. I wrote sketches…Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic.”
Now, on the official Twitter account for the programme, bosses have slammed the reports that the two puppets are in a relationship.
They wrote: "As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends.
"They were created to teach pre-schoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
Please see our statement below regarding Bert and Ernie. pic.twitter.com/6r2j0XrKYu— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
"Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
"Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceotance. 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."
Please see our most recent statement regarding Bert and Ernie below. pic.twitter.com/gWTF2k1y83— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
However, the fact that they claim they cannot have a sexual orientation because they are puppets hasn't sat well with many LGBT campaigners considering the likes of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog are in a heterosexual relationship.
Chaz Harris, who is part of a new awareness campaign on social media called #HearUsShowUs to engage the LGBTQ+ community and our allies in calling for more inclusive and visible representation of LGBTQ+ characters in family-oriented media, slammed the comments.
He told Attitude: "Are Miss Piggy and Kermit just 'best friends?' The Count has a wife and Oscar the grouch has a girlfriend.
"The sexual orientation of existing characters is made pretty clear to kids, so by denying that it’s possible for any puppets or Bert and Ernie to have an orientation, that's making straight the default.
"We need to stop teaching kids that, and statements that reinforce that kind of thing are invalidating and very problematic.
"If Sesame Street don't want to officially acknowledge Bert and Ernie as gay characters then that's up to them, but the statements made to actively deny they are have implied that being queer is something shameful or inappropriate for kids to be made aware of.
"Some people are queer. Some kids have queer parents and siblings. Maybe if more kids grew up seeing themselves and their peers represented, we'd see less of the kind of bullying that results in the loss of LGBTQ kids like Jamel Myles."