‘Sesame Street’ Writer Now Says He Was Misunderstood in Bert and Ernie ‘Uproar’

Debate over puppets’ sexuality reignited after interview with Mark Saltzman went viral

bert and ernie
YouTube/Sesame Workshop

There has been yet another twist in the saga over Bert and Ernie’s sexuality.

Former “Sesame Street” writer Mark Saltzman said his recent comments about the famed children’s show characters were misconstrued in the “uproar.”

“As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work,” he said in an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday. “Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”

“They are two guys who love each other,” he said. “That’s who they are,” added Saltzman, saying that the puppet duo’s relationship is simply an example of love, likening it to “poetry. It’s what you need it to be.”

Saltzman told The New York Times that he does think “Sesame Street” should introduce a gay couple — but that couple should be human.

The “uproar” started after Saltzman gave an interview to Queerty in which he said he “always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were.”

“I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,” he said. “The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie [Glassman] & I as ‘Bert & Ernie,’” Saltzman added, referencing the late Glassman, an acclaimed editor and his life partner of more than 20 years.

Sesame Workshop, the studio behind the longstanding children’s program, said in a statement Tuesday that “Bert and Ernie are best friends.”

“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 an possess many human traits and characteristics (as most ‘Sesame Street’ Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation,” the statement continued.

Longtime Muppets veteran and Bert’s creator Frank Oz chimed in later Tuesday, too, saying that the puppet duo are definitely not gay.

“It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay,” Oz said 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.”