Sesame Street

Before Elmo's woe: A look at 4 past 'Sesame Street' controversies

Nov. 13, 2012 at 3:08 PM ET

The now recanted underage-sex allegations against "Sesame Street" puppeteer Kevin Clash have put the revered children's television staple in the spotlight of a scandal. But while Clash's case could prove to be the biggest scandal the show has seen, it's hardly the first.

Victoria Will / AP /
"Sesame Street" muppet Elmo and puppeteer Kevin Clash.

Over the years, "Sesame Street" has seen its share of headline-grabbing hubbub, from public handwringing over the on-air actions of certain Muppets to scenes deemed too hot for tot TV.

One of the most famous controversies to hit the "Street" came when the show filmed pop star Katy Perry singing "Hot N Cold" -- along with her pal Elmo -- while wearing an low-cut outfit some might have considered inappropriate for a kids' show.

The powers that be decided to cut the skit before it aired, but that action made for a bigger scandal as far as others were concerned, including Perry herself. The frustrated singer went on to show the public television program just how low-cut she could go by wearing a much more revealing Elmo shirt on "Saturday Night Live."

In 2002, the South African version of "Sesame Street," "Takalani Sesame," introduced an HIV-positive character to help educate children about the disease. The character, Kami, proved to be a hit with her intended audience, as well as former President Bill Clinton. But some stateside groups didn't approve.

Cookie Monster caused a stir when he went from a cookie-gobbling beast to a responsible cookie eater several years ago. But in an effort to satisfy parents who didn't want their own kids to be monsters when it came to cookies, the show saw backlash from others who felt the Cookie Monster's new  "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food" approach was an example of political correctness gone too far. These days? Cookie monster likes to keep a healthy balance between bananas and butter cookies.

And of course, most recently, the show -- and one big yellow character in particular -- recently found itself at the center of always-polarizing presidential politics.

During the presidential debates, then-hopeful Mitt Romney brought up Big Bird when discussing his desire to cut funding to PBS. Those on the right and left of the political spectrum used the moment to prop up their own parties, but "Sesame Street" wanted no part of it.

"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," the non-profit said in a statement.

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