Ted Cruz in Dire Need of Sesame Street

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Sesame Street has been an American classic for nearly fifty years, stressing the importance of education, empathy and kindness. Ted Cruz should watch it sometime. Maybe he would learn something. (Courtesy of Yahoo)

Michael Sluck, Contributing Writer

Of all the beloved childhood television shows, surely none rank higher than “Sesame Street.” An American classic for more than 50 years, “Sesame Street” has become legendary for educating children in counting and letters, as well as imparting message of kindness and empathy. 

In a recent episode, Sesame Street characters, including Elmo and Big Bird, talked about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. A few hours later, Big Bird sent out a tweet: “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.” It was a charming, helpful way to alleviate fears young children might have about getting vaccinated, especially since the FDA recently approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. 

Not everyone, however, is such a huge fan of the show’s move to support the vaccine. In response to Big Bird’s tweet, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, “Government propaganda — for your five year old!” 

Ted Cruz’s response is a national embarrassment. Not only has he resorted to attacking a beloved character who is trying to comfort children during this difficult time, he is attempting to undermine trust in the scientific system, all for the purpose of gaining a few political points. 

Despite being a children’s show, “Sesame Street” has never shied away from discussing serious issues. Over its history, the show has addressed natural disasters, death, AIDS, incarceration and homelessness. This isn’t even the first time Big Bird has been vaccinated: in 1972, he was vaccinated against the measles

“Sesame Street” has done a lot to comfort children during these troubling times. In the chaos of the pandemic it’s easy to forget how scary it must be for a lot of kids who don’t fully understand what’s happening. “Sesame Street” has hosted many famous guest stars, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, over the course of the pandemic in order to explain to children what is happening in the world. 

By having Elmo, Big Bird and company ask questions and talk about this, children are more likely to understand the pandemic. The vaccination effort is no different. As younger children become eligible for vaccination, it’s only natural that many of them will be nervous about it. By having their favorite characters explain it to them, kids will hopefully feel less scared. 

Ted Cruz, however, charges “Sesame Street” with spreading propaganda. The word “propaganda” is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” The notion that COVID-19 vaccines are important and safe, however, is not “biased” or “misleading.” It is a fact that has been endorsed by the CDC and the scientific community of the United States at large. 

By dubbing these basic facts propaganda, Cruz is casting doubt on the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines themselves. If encouraging people to get vaccinated and ensuring them of its safety is just “propaganda,” then Cruz seems to be implying the government is lying. He seeks to cast doubt on both the government and the scientific community as a whole. At a time when the entire nation is fighting an uphill battle trying to get everyone vaccinated so life can return to a semblance of normalcy, Cruz is making everyone’s job more difficult. 

Perhaps the strangest thing about this exchange is that Cruz and his entire family have been vaccinated, so it’s not entirely clear what it is about Big Bird’s tweet he believes to be propaganda. Does he doubt that vaccines are safe? Obviously not, since he got one himself. Does he believe people shouldn’t be vaccinated? Once again, he clearly believes they are safe and effective, and should be able to see the positive effects widespread vaccination would have on the country. 

It seems like the only reason he is attacking “Sesame Street” and lending credence to the anti-vaccination movement is in order to score political points. Since many of Cruz’s constituents don’t believe in the vaccine, statements like Cruz’s commiserate with them. 

Cruz is vaccinated. He believes in the vaccine. He is clearly aware of the risk of remaining unvaccinated. Yet, he is spreading lies, dubbing the truth as propaganda and endangering human lives all in the favor of boosting his own popularity. He could have released a statement talking about his own vaccination status in order to urge others to get vaccinated. Instead, he attacked Big Bird. 

The saddest part of writing this entire article is that I have to depict this as an argument between a United States Senator and a children’s television character. Ted Cruz is not attacking the White House or the CDC. He has stooped so low as to start attacking puppets. While his fellow members of the Senate are trying to solve the climate crisis, addressing the failing economy and rebuilding our infrastructure, he is wasting his time launching virtual attacks on fictional television characters. 

Sesame Street has been an American classic for nearly 50 years. Throughout that time, it has stressed the importance of education, empathy and kindness. Ted Cruz should watch it sometime. Maybe he would learn something. 

Michael Sluck, FCRH ’24, is a political science and computer science major from Verona, N.J.