Bongarts/Getty ImagesOf course, the sexuality of other cartoon characters has come into question over the years. Anti-gay groups have accused SpongeBob SquarePants and Tinky Winky of the "Teletubbies" of harboring a homosexual agenda, even while most people with half a brain were saying, "They're just children's characters." Bert and Ernie's lifestyle choices, however, didn't help matters. They share a room, and a bedroom, if not a bed. They bicker like husband and wife. They frequently break out in song. One has a curious obsession with his rubber ducky.From the very first "Sesame Street" episode, Ernie can be seen taking a bath with Bert in the room -- and that makes a lot of guys uncomfortable.
'They Don't Exist Below the Waist'The controversy hit a fever pitch in 1994, when the Rev. Joseph Chambers called for the characters to be banned."They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another they tend plants together," the Southern evangelist said on his radio show. "If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent."
At one point, the Children's Television Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind "Sesame Street," even issued a denial."Bert and Ernie, who've been on Sesame Street for 25 years, do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the future. They are puppets, not humans," the organization said in a statement. "Like all the Muppets created for 'Sesame Street,' they were designed to help educate preschoolers. Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends."Years later, Gary Knell, president of Children's Television Workshop successor Sesame Workshop, would say, "They are not gay. They are not straight. ... They don't exist below the waist."