Ethics Quiz: Indoctrination On Sesame Street

Seseme St Covid

I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming.

Big Bird tweeted a few days ago, “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!” Naturally, President Biden, who watches Sesame Street religiously (yes, it’s a cheap shot, but I’m in a bad mood) tweeted back, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”

This set off an immediate partisan and ideological debate, with conservative hone-schooling mother, blogger and pundit Bethany Mandel taking a leadership role. She wrote in part,

Just as “Sesame Street” isn’t content with allowing parents the freedom to guide their children’s own moral compass, so too are they uncomfortable with the idea of parents making individual risk assessments for their children’s health and safety. There is a moral absolutism necessary to be part of the left, which is where “Sesame Street’s” writers appear to fall. The messaging on COVID-19 vaccination has become yet another absolutist position. Big Bird’s tweet doesn’t exist just on Twitter. It’s part of a larger campaign from the series to “educate” parents on the vaccine.

Earlier this year, she wrote about the iconic children’s educational show shifting from ABCs and vocabulary into the culture wars:

Those in charge of messaging and programming children’s media have positioned themselves as arbiters of our children’s moral compass. And that Soviet-style demand for a universal, well-curated set of beliefs from a particular coastal lens should concern all parents — not just those with religious or personal beliefs that make them uncomfortable with a particular episode of “Sesame Street” aired during Pride Month.

Parents should take note: The aim of children’s media is no longer just to provide free, education-minded babysitting while you get ready for work.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Continue reading

Update: Apology Scores For The MSNBC Vicious Three


Several readers have asked for the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale scores for the three MSNBC creeps who decided to use a loving, non-political family photo featuring Mitt Romney’s newly adopted grandchild as an opportunity to sneer at the family, Mitt and the GOP, and engage in some unprovoked race-baiting. It was such an ugly display that decent human beings a) would never have engaged in it at all and b) wouldn’t have required a wave of criticism to wash over them to realize apologies were in order, but they did. Why? Because they are hateful people, unsavory and loathsome. As such, I really had decided that mucking around in MSNBC swill wasn’t worth a second post, but since you asked, here are the scores. The best apologies are in category #1…no danger of that with this sorry trio.

Apology 1: Dean Obeidallah Continue reading

The Problem Isn’t That MSNBC’s Talking Heads Are “Offensive”…It’s That They Are Unprofessional, Hateful And Loathsome



From Mediaite:

“On Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry (MSMBC) show, the eponymous host led a panel of entertainers in a rundown of the “photos of the year,” which somehow included a Romney family picture that “a lot of people had emotions about,” according to MHP….“Everybody loves a baby picture,” Harris-Perry said, “and this was one that really, a lot of people had emotions about this baby picture this year. This is the Romney family. And, of course, there on Governor Romney’s knee is his adopted grandson, who is an African-American, adopted African-American child, Kieran Romney.” As Harris-Perry made the introduction, panelist Pia Glenn sang “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same,” a tune whose original lyrics read “one of these things doesn’t belong.” “And that little baby, front and center, would be the one,” she added. …Comedian Dean Obeidallah chimed in by reducing the baby to a token. “I think this picture is great,” he said. “It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”

Then the host, without missing a beat and without sensing any irony, said that the next segment would be devoted to answering the question, “ that racist?” Continue reading

Emmy Ethics: Honoring Elmo, Or Honoring A Child Molester?


I am assuming, based on the fact that this story was featured on the conservative muckraking website Brietbart, that some people think it is inappropriate to award three Daytime Emmys for children’s programming to Kevin Clash, the Muppets puppeteer whose career as fuzzy red monster Elmo on Sesame Street ended with a series of child molestation accusations.

If I am right, these people are dead wrong. Clash is an artist, and a talented one. Whether or not the allegations of his having illicit contact with under-aged boys are true, and none have been tested in court, his skill in manipulating and voicing the cutest and most vulnerable of the Muppets is beyond debate. The Emmy has never been nor claimed to be a character award. An Emmy recognizes excellence in television, in this case children’s programming, and it doesn’t make a smidgeon of difference if an artist is a child molester, a bank robber, a cannibal, a Nazi or a Billy Ray Cyrus fan—if he or she delivered the best artistic product, the honor is deserved.


Spark, Facts and Graphic: Breitbart

Ethics Quote of the Day: Sesame Street

“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”

—— The producers of “Sesame Street,” announcing Kevin Clash’s resignation and the end of his close association with Elmo. A second man just accused Clash of molesting him when he was underage, and Clash’s original accuser, Sheldon Stephens, recently recanted his recantation of  his allegations.

“Goodbye, my friend.”

This ending was pre-ordained from the beginning of the scandal, and Clash’s guilt or innocence was and is irrelevant. Sesame Street’s duty is to Elmo and his fans, not Kevin Clash. “Innocent until proven guilty” also has no application. Clash, if nothing else, is guilty of not being innocent enough to be the voice of the most innocent Muppet on Sesame Street.

Unethical Quote of the Week: CNN Morning Anchor Carol Costello

“There was criticism when Jim Lehrer was initially named to be a moderator. People said: ‘oh, another white guy; he’s too old to be doing this; we live in a new world — we don’t need an old-fashioned journalist doing these things any longer.’”

—-CNN Morning host Carol Costello, communing with PBS head Paula Kerger over Mitt Romney’s (obviously correct) assertion that public support for PBS has got to go, and joining in the despicable Democratic spin that President Obama’s less-than-stellar performance in the first debate was moderator Jim Lehrer’s fault.

Worst of the worst? I mean, if you don’t count MSNBC?

Carol Costello, Soledad O’Brien; Soledad O’Brien Carol Costello. Who is the most biased, smug, unethical news host not on MSNBC? Just when I think O’Brien has locked up the prize, Costello comes roaring back with something like this.

She ought to be fired. It’s as simple as that. Her statement is racist and ageist in the worst sense or the words; her implication is an unforgivable insult to a veteran newsman infinitely her superior, and her the content of her statement is proof of a deficient mind. Fire her. The AARP should demand it; the Republican should demand it; the Democrats should demand it, and CNN should see it as essential to maintaining whatever shred of credibility and integrity it has left. Continue reading

Comment of the Day #2, On the Pointless Marriage of Bert and Ernie

Marrying a puppet is illegal in all 50 states, plus the Dictrict of Columbia.

This is where maintaining integrity and consistency becomes tricky.

Obviously the Comment of the Day suggests only one, yet for some reason this particular day has generated an unusual number of contenders, all deserving. If I refuse to highlight any of these because a Comment of the Day was already posted, I am obscuring important content to maintain a rule, in a situation where the rule doesn’t have any benefits.

But if I have more than one “Comment of the Day,” that creates a precedent and suggests that the designation is more of a formal verdict on comment quality than it is meant to be.  I simply do not, and do not have the time to, give Comment of the Day status to every deserving post. One is usually plenty, and will remain so. But it is foolish, and a contradiction of the principles I argue for on Ethics Alarms, to withhold recognizing a valuable comment for no reason other than an admittedly arbitrary limit.

So here is Comment of the Day #2, on what I will, for this time only, designate as Comment of the Day Friday, as Jeff is inspired by the discussion of bigotry in the continuing discussion generated by Enzo and the Contessa, to weigh in on a particularly stupid news story, the appeal by some gay marriage advocacy groups to have Bert and Ernie, of Sesame Street, tie the knot…if gay marriage is legal on Sesame Street.

(Yes, I know: this is a Comment of the Day on a Comment of the Day on a Comment of the Day. Curse you, Jeff!) Continue reading

Katy Perry’s Cleavage and Sesame Street Ethics

“Sesame Street’s” producers yanked pop songstress Katy Perry’s upcoming appearance on the iconic PBS children’s show after parents complained about her low-cut dress. They had seen a preview of her duet with Elmo on YouTube, and were scandalized.

The complaint, to put it mildly had no merit. Continue reading

The Ethics Of Ending Public Broadcasting

The seeming inability of elected officials and politicians to deal with basic decisions involving responsibility, prudence, accountability and honesty is coming into sharp focus as yet another debate over taxpayer-funded public broadcasting on PBS and NPR gets underway.

Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn has introduced legislation that would cut all federal funding, an estimated annual $420 million, for public radio and television as part of the necessary effort to close the nation’s more than $13 trillion debt. As one of thousands of measures that will have to be taken to stave of fiscal catastrophe in the future, the move is truly a no-brainer, an example of the standard budget-balancing strategy of eliminating the most non-essential expenses, no matter how nice it may have been to have them when resources were more plentiful. In a rational, ethical environment where politicians didn’t regard their interest group contributors as more important than the welfare of the nation as a whole, Lamborn’s proposal wouldn’t be considered controversial. The rational response from all would be, “Well, of course! That’s $420 million that can be better used.”

But no. Continue reading