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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz blasts Sesame Street – again – after Elmo gets the coronavirus vaccine

June 29, 2022 Updated Wed., June 29, 2022 at 8:56 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol to discuss immigration at the southern border on June 22, 2022, in Washington, D.C.  (Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol to discuss immigration at the southern border on June 22, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)
By Emily Caldwell Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – With a little green Band-Aid on his furry red arm, Elmo, the beloved 3½-half-year-old Muppet on the long-running children’s PBS program “Sesame Street,” said “there was a little pinch, but it was OK” when he received his coronavirus vaccine this week.

Sen. Ted Cruz quickly pushed back.

On Twitter, where Sesame Street shared a clip Tuesday of Elmo and his Muppet dad, Louie, discussing their decision to have Elmo get vaccinated, Cruz laid into the show, which has been encouraging youngsters to get vaccinated for decades.

“Thanks, @sesamestreet for saying parents are allowed to have questions!” Cruz tweeted Tuesday. “You then have @elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”

Cruz then linked to a letter he wrote with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and 16 House Republicans, to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in early June that pushed for answers about using the vaccine in children 5 years old and younger.

“Before the FDA approves an Emergency Use Authorization for a children’s vaccine, parents should be able to see the data and paperwork they would use to justify this decision,” Cruz said in a statement at the time.

On June 17, the FDA authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children as young as six months old. The Centers for Disease Control followed suit with its own recommendation, saying “COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”

Louie, in the clip of him with Elmo post-vaccination, said he had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the vaccine.

“Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice,” Louie said. “I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he added, before hugging Elmo.

The Sesame Street video was made in collaboration with the CDC, Ad Council, and the COVID Collaborative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative.

“With help from Elmo and his dad Louie, we want to model real conversations, encourage parents’ questions, and help children know what to expect,” Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Cruz has blasted the program for promoting the COVID vaccine to kids. In November, the Texas senator took aim at Big Bird, calling it “government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” after the canary-like 8-foot-2 Muppet proclaimed that he’d received the jab.

Sesame Workshop gets a fraction of its funding from federal grants, and no government official controls its content. A collection of Muppets, including Big Bird, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch, had participated in a Sesame Street outreach effort, including a town hall appearance on CNN.

The reaction from Cruz was enough to prompt a Saturday Night Live parody of the situation, with comedian Aidy Bryant playing Cruz in a cold open.

“As you know, I was mocked for attacking Big Bird on Twitter, simply because I’m a human senator and he is an 8-foot-tall fictional bird,” Bryant says as Cruz.

“I wear your scorn with pride,” the real Cruz tweeted the following Monday.

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