Republicans, led by House Commerce Committee chairman W.J. Tauzin of Louisiana, threatened to pull funding from PBS, if the educational show Sesame Street added an HIV positive muppet to its cast.
The show, produced worldwide by the Sesame Workshop, plans to introduce the muppet to its South African audience, where AIDS is taking an especially heavy toll. The the network said it hoped the new Muppet would help combat the spread of HIV and AIDS by educating youngsters on the epidemic. More than 10 percent of the South African population is infected with HIV.
House republicans, led by Tauzin and backed by the anti-Gay American Family Association, questioned the appropriateness of both the character and subject matter on public television, and reminded PBS president Pat Mitchell that Congress controls the purse strings of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The American Family Association says the character is a means for "homosexual activists to influence young viewers."
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