5 ‘Sesame Street’ Scandals You Won’t Believe, From Katy Perry to Kevin Clash

Sesame Street is famous for its iconic educational programming. But even shows for kids aren’t immune from controversy, and the series has been caught in more than one or two scandals over its nearly half-century run. From Katy Perry’s cleavage to the voice behind Elmo, we’re taking a closer look at the improprieties that threatened the very decency of PBS’ most beloved children’s TV show. 

Elmo had a couple of unfortunate missteps that weren’t his fault

Elmo is undoubtedly one of the series’ most popular characters over the years. The fuzzy 4-year-old sass with a high-pitched voice appeals mainly to Sesame Street’s younger fans. Which is why it was so perplexing when, in 2010, pop phenomenon Katy Perry appeared alongside him in a cleavage-baring, neon-green dress for a duet of Perry’s Hot and Cold. None of it was lost on protective parents who felt maybe the boobs were a bit much. 

Sesame Workshop cut the segment, which had only been released on YouTube at that point, and promised not to air it. “In light of the feedback we’ve received on the Katy Perry music video, which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers,” the statement read in part. “Katy Perry fans will still be able to view the video on YouTube.” Perry took it in stride, joking on Twitter that her dress-up “playdate” with Elmo had been “cut short.” 

The little muppet’s innocence was further called into question when the original voice behind the character, Keven Clash, was involved in a widely-publicized sexual abuse scandal. According to Wikipedia, after nearly 30 years of voicing the character, in 2012, he handed in his resignation from Sesame Street. Multiple allegations of sexual impropriety, which Clash denied, led to the move. Ultimately they were all later dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The disgraced puppeteer returned to a similar gig with The Happytime Murders, but the scandal was hard for some to forget. 

The little guy’s appeal endured through it all, but…wow. 

Oscar the Grouch offended Fox News 

In 2009 the show was accused of ridiculing conservative cable network Fox News. “From now on I am watching Pox News,” said the famously cranky trash-can dweller. “Now there is a trashy news show.”

Per The Week, a PBS rep admitted the jab and walked back the comments in a rare move. While the parody was “too good to resist,” they said, “it should have been resisted.”

A less cranky monster prompted an outcry when he threatened to become too healthy. In 2005, Cookie Monster side-eyed fruits and vegetables in order to address a growing child obesity crisis. A muppet friend stopped by to inform Cookie Monster that a cookie is a “sometimes food.” 

“A cookie can be scrumptious, crunchy, sweet or yumptious, but a cookie is ‘sometimes food,’” his new friend sang amid a mountain of fresh fruits. “There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are healthy for you all the time.”

According to Heavy, fans flipped, terrified that Cookie Monster might become “Veggie Monster.” Cookie Monster himself addressed the fracas via social media, tweeting, “Cookie Monster: Time to put end to rumors. YES, me eat vegetables. NO, not going to be called Vegetable Monster! Dis whole thing silly.”

Sesame Street’s’ official YouTube channel was hacked…with hardcore porn

The Wrap, reported in 2011 that the series’ YouTube channel was cleared of its existing videos and replaced with hardcore pornography. At the time, the channel had nearly 150,000 young subscribers. Sesame Workshop remained straightforward about the entire debacle, saying its goal is always “age-appropriate content.”

Sesame Street Muppets
Muppets at the ‘Sesame Street’ Workshop 10th Annual Benefit Gala in New York City | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

“We apologize for any inconvenience our audience may have experienced on our Sesame Street YouTube channel,” read the official statement on the matter. “Our channel was compromised and we worked with YouTube/Google to restore our original content. We always strive to provide age-appropriate content for our viewers.”

If that isn’t a grand finale among scandals, we don’t know what is. 

Related: This ‘Dark Crystal’ Puppeteer Got His Start On ‘Sesame Street’

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