September 19, 2018 at 11:50 am PST | by Mariah Cooper
Former ‘Sesame Street’ writer reignites debate on Bert and Ernie’s relationship

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Speculation on whether iconic comedy duo Bert and Ernie’s relationship could be romantic has swirled for years but one former “Sesame Street” writer’s comments were taken as confirmation they are a couple.

Mark Saltzman, who is gay and was a writer on the children’s series in the ’80s and ’90s,  told Queerty that he based Bert and Ernie on a long term relationship he was in with another man.

“And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay],” Saltzman 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 & Ernie.”

Saltzman noted that he was never open about drawing inspiration for Bert and Ernie from his own relationship.

“I would never have said to the head writer, ‘Oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me,'” Saltzman said.

Frank Oz, the puppeteer who created the character of Bert, denied Saltzman’s claims on Twitter.

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

Saltzman’s comments led Sesame Street Workshop to release a statement that Bert and Ernie are just friends.

“As we have always said, 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 and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation,” the statement reads.

In an interview with the New York Post, Saltzman clarified his comments.

“As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work,” Saltzman said. “Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”

Saltzman continued on that the bottom line is the pair have a strong connection.

“They are two guys who love each other,” Saltzman said. “That’s who they are.”

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