Sesame Street has long ruffled Republicans’ feathers. In 2011, Fox News host Sean Hannity and commentator Ben Shapiro famously aired a segment railing against the show’s “soft bigotry” toward conservatives and its allegedly gay, liberal agenda. In June 2020, Tucker Carlson attacked CNN and Sesame Street over a joint town hall special about George Floyd–inspired protests and racial equality, calling the program “relentless propaganda.” And now Texas senator Ted Cruz has decided to pick a fight with Big Bird over his (ahem, fictional) vaccination status.
After the U.S. approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, Big Bird (who is reportedly a perpetual six-and-a-half-year-old) announced that he had been vaccinated. “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy,” the yellow bird tweeted on Saturday. The popular children’s character also appeared on a CNN town hall, The ABCs of COVID Vaccines, with the network’s anchor Erica Hill and chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta to answer questions about the vaccine.
While Joe Biden tweeted, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe,” Cruz was less enthused about the bird’s advocacy. “Government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” Cruz wrote, calling the character out in several follow-up tweets.
Cruz, who is vaccinated but opposed to federal immunization mandates, wasn’t the only conservative with a finger to wag. Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe tweeted that “brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID” was “twisted.” (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that children aged between 5 and 11 accounted for 10.6% of COVID cases during one week in October.) Newsmax host Steve Cortes tweeted, falsely, “This kind of propaganda is actually evil. Your children are not statistically at risk, and should not be pressured into a brand new treatment. Do Not Comply!”