CNN, Sesame Street push “virtual town hall” to “teach” young children about “racism”
06/13/2020 // Michael Alexander // Views

Long-running children’s television show Sesame Street has collaborated with mainstream news network CNN to air a “virtual town hall” for families and children, in which they discussed current issues such as racism and the ongoing riots across the United States.

Titled "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism," the virtual town hall was billed as a family-friendly program and featured CNN hosts Van Jones and Erica Hill as moderators, and “Muppets” Elmo, Big Bird, Abby Cadabby and Rosita as the show’s guests.

The special program, according to CNN, was meant as a way for parents to discuss a “difficult” but “important” issue with their children.

“The show will talk to kids about racism, the recent nationwide protests, embracing diversity and being more empathetic and understanding,” the network said in a statement.

The program, which aired over the weekend on the CNN website, started with chants of “black lives matter.” The chanting prompts a bewildered Elmo to look out of his window, before asking his father, Louie, about what’s happening.

Louie then launches into a monologue about how the people outside are “protesting” about racism and inequality in the country.

“Not all streets are like Sesame Street. On Sesame Street, we all love and respect one another,” Louie explained, adding that across the country, people of color, especially those in the Black Community, allegedly experience unfair treatment because of their appearance, their culture, their race and their identities.


“What we are seeing is people saying ‘Enough is Enough.’ They want to end racism,” Louie said, referring to the ongoing protests and riots.

Sesame Street repeated this messaging on its official Twitter account, where they posted a declaration of support to the Black Community.

This is the second virtual town hall presented by the children’s show and the news network, the first being its special on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Children learn anti-racism from adults" – Sesame Street, CNN

During the program, Sesame Street’s other characters also made an appearance, with each one relaying stories or lessons related to the theme of the town hall.

One character, Abby Cadabby, relayed a story about one instance wherein she witnessed Big Bird being bullied for his big feathers and his height – the show’s analogy for instances of alleged racially-motivated intolerance and cruelty.

Aside from the Muppets, several other personalities, such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Drake University professor Jennifer Harvey, also made an appearance during the program, answering questions from children about racism and how to create change in their respective communities.

Our children learn anti-racism and racial justice from us. If they watch us look away when we encounter racism, that’s what they learn the right thing to do is,” Harvey said.

Bottoms, meanwhile, had a very lighthearted ?– if direct ?– message to the children watching: “Keep loving each other. And when you see someone who’s doing something wrong or saying something wrong, say that it’s wrong.”

Bottoms, a Democrat, previously aired condemnation for the ongoing riots on her speeches about the George Floyd protests, reminding attendees that while their anger is justified, their violence is not.

"We know our citizens are angry. We are angry and we want justice. If we are to enact change in this nation, I implore everyone to channel their anger and sorrow into something more meaningful and effective through non-violent activism,” Bottoms said in a previous speech.

Tucker Carlson says CNN and Sesame Street program "pure propaganda"

Conservative television host and news commentator Tucker Carlson, however, was not amused by the CNN and Sesame Street special, calling it “propaganda” for children.

During his segment on Fox News, Carlson, who had previously come under fire for saying on air that immigration will make America “dirtier and poorer,” suggested the Muppets had a different, far more ulterior message other than simply decrying the alleged poor treatment of minorities: that white people are the enemy.

“America is a very bad place and it’s your fault, so no matter what happens, no matter what they do to you when you grow up, you have no right to complain,” Carlson said, noting that the latest collaboration between CNN and Sesame Street is part of "relentless propaganda" from left-wing groups. (Related: Sign of the times: Sesame Street introduces a character with autism.)

"You don't have to apologize for crimes you did not commit. You have the absolute right to say exactly what you believe is true," Carlson said to his audience.

Sesame Street ?– 51 years of "kid-friendly" social commentary

Sesame Street, which premiered at the tail end of the American Civil Rights Movement in 1969, is no stranger to injecting social commentary on several “difficult” topics in its episodes throughout the years.

Among the topics it covered were childhood sexual abuse, which was addressed in a 1985 episode in which the show’s adult cast members discover that Mr. Snuffleupagus ?– a large, furry and friendly monster patterned after an anteater and a mammoth ?– was actually real and not just a figment of Big Bird’s imagination.

According to executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente, this was an analogy to traumatic experiences in a child’s life, which parents may not always believe at first.

“The fear was that if we represented adults not believing what kids said, they might not be motivated to tell the truth," Parete said in an interview with Mental Floss.

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