Oklahoma’s Republican governor is on a crusade against "Clifford the Big Red Dog," the network that produces the animated children's show, and the local affiliate that airs it.
Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill that authorized funding the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), which broadcasts PBS programming, through July 2026.
Republicans have targeted PBS funding for years, including Donald Trump during his presidency and Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate in 2012. Stitt appears to be seizing on a sordid political moment in the United States to advance that cause.
"I don't think Oklahomans want to use their tax dollars to indoctrinate kids," Stitt told reporters on Friday about his decision to veto the bill. "Some of the stuff that they’re showing just overly sexualizes our kids.”
Here, Stitt seems to be winking at Republicans’ crusade against so-called groomers with his criticism of PBS, much like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is targeting Disney to push his anti-LGBTQ agenda.
Tulsa World on Friday laid out the Stitt administration’s issues with PBS, and they’re just as bigoted as one might imagine.
To back up Stitt’s claims, a spokeswoman for the governor sent the Tulsa World information showing that OETA promoted LGBTQ-focused Pride Month programming in recent years. The spokeswoman also shared information indicating that two animated children’s cartoons — 'Clifford the Big Red Dog' and 'Work It Out Wombats!' — that air on PBS affiliates have included lesbian characters in some episodes. The spokeswoman also sent a Fox News article that criticizes a 'PBS Newshour' segment in which an Indiana couple talked about how gender-affirming care was beneficial for their daughter.
First of all, if you watch “Clifford the Big Red Dog” or “Work It Out Wombats!” and think, “Gee, there’s an awful lot of sexiness going on here,” that sounds like a personal issue. But fundamentally, Stitt’s veto is nothing more than anti-LGBTQ government censorship.
And the governor’s cruelty is likely to impact Oklahomans in a major way. Just last year, Stitt vetoed more than $8 million in funding authorized for the OETA to improve its emergency alerting services, hampering the agency’s effort to improve a tool it uses to notify residents — including many in rural areas — of local issues.
Stitt claimed he doesn’t see a reason for public funding to go toward a broadcast network. And that stance has him at odds with some members of his own party in the state Legislature.
Multiple Oklahoma Republicans told Tulsa World they support OETA funding. That includes state Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, who pointed to public broadcasting's key role in relaying emergency communications.
According to Tulsa World, the Legislature appears likely to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in the Oklahoma House and state Senate.