The organisation behind the beloved children’s puppet show Sesame Street has denied claims from one of the show’s writers that characters Bert and Ernie are a gay couple.
Sesame Workshop released a statement saying that the pair are “best friends” and “do not have a sexual orientation”, after writer Mark Saltzman said he drew on his own relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman to write the characters.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” the Sesame Workshop statement reads. “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 (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Saltzman – who joined Sesame Street in 1984, 15 years after Bert and Ernie made their debut on the show – said he saw the pair as a romantic couple in an interview with the LGBTQ news site Queerty.
When asked whether the duo were gay, he responded: “I always felt that, without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualise them.”
He added: “I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
Ever since Sesame Street’s pilot episode in 1969 there has been speculation about the sexuality of the puppet pair, who are roommates at number 123.
This is not the first time claims of them being gay have been contradicted: Sesame Workshop responded to an online petition calling for Bert and Ernie to marry in 2011 with almost exactly the same statement.