Newly appointed Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling demanded that PBS pull an episode of the children’s show Postcards from Buster out of its line-up. PBS complied.
The episode featured Buster, a cartoon rabbit, visiting families with two moms. A PBS spokesperson released a statement that the episode contained material, “sensitive in today’s political climate.”
In the series Buster, whose parents are divorced, is traveling across the country with his father. On Buster’s trips he meets many families from various backgrounds. He records his adventures on video and sends them to his friends back home.
The latest leg of Buster’s journey brought him to Vermont where he met a family of dairy farmers and a family of maple syrup producers. Lesbian couples headed the two families he visited.
Same-sex couples have been a hot topic for Spelling ever since she took office on Jan. 20, 2005.
“Congress’ and the department’s purpose in funding this programming was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children,” Spelling wrote in a reaction letter to PBS President Pat Mitchell.
“Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode,” Spelling said.
Jeanne Hopkins, vice president of WGBH, the station that produces Postcards from Buster, did not agree.
“I think that a lot of people have spoken out without having seen it,” Hopkins said.
During this controversial episode entitled “Sugartime,” Emma, an 11-year-old girl, introduces Buster to her mother Karen, and partner Gillian.
“So Gillian’s your mom too?” Buster asked the girl.
“She’s my step-mom,” Emma answered.
“Boy, that’s a lot of moms,” Buster replied.
Later in the episode, Buster and Emma are looking at photographs hanging on the wall. Emma picks the ones she likes best, “because they have my mom and Gillian, who I love a lot, and they mean a lot to me.”
WGBH has offered to give a copy of the episode to any station that wants to air it. Several stations have taken WGBH up on the offer, including local PBS channel 54, KTEH, who was unavailable for comment.
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and recently known for criticizing cartoon character “Spongebob Squarepants” for promoting homosexuality, praised Spelling on his Web site. Dobson said the main issue was homosexual advocacy groups brainwashing children.
In response, a Mills College student and mother of two said, “I think that's just ridiculous.”
In response to the controversy over the episode, Hopkins said, “It’s not about anything except maple sugar and dairy.”