- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mark Saltzman, a former longtime script writer for “Sesame Street,” has confirmed the longstanding rumor that Bert and Ernie are a gay couple.

Mr. Saltzman, who came out as gay while writing for “Sesame Street” in the 1980s, told LGBTQ lifestyle website Queerty in an interview this week that he mirrored Bert and Ernie’s “loving” relationship after his own relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.

“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay],” he said. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as ‘Bert and Ernie.’”

Mr. Saltzman, who worked for 15 years on “The Muppets” and wrote scripts and songs for “Sesame Street,” said he was the Ernie in his relationship.

“And Arnie as a film editor — if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect?” he asked. “Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert and 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 and Ernie dynamic.”

Despite Mr. Saltzman confirming he wrote scripts basing Bert and Ernie on his own same-sex relationship, Sesame Workshop tweeted a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the characters have no sexual orientation.

“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street” said. “They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” the tweet reads. “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.”

Frank Oz, who was the puppeteer and voice for Bert for more than 30 years, also denied Mr. Saltzman’s claim about the famed Muppets.

“It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”

The tweet sparked immediate backlash, to which Mr. Oz responded, “I created Bert. I know what and who he is.”

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