GOP governor rejects funding for PBS because Clifford the dog “indoctrinates” kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog book cover
Clifford the Big Red Dog book cover Photo: Scholastic

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is trying to strip funding from the state’s PBS TV station because it acknowledges LGBTQ+ people.

Stitt shocked many when he recently vetoed H.B. 2820, a routine bill that would have approved funding for the Oklahoma Education Television Authority (OETA) – which broadcasts PBS in the state – through 2026.

“I don’t think Oklahomans want to use their tax dollars to indoctrinate kids,” Stitt said at a press conference. “And some of the stuff that they’re showing, it just overly sexualizes our kids. There are parents defending child transition on PBS that’s being played. There’s elevating LGBTQIA2S+ voices.”

He called it “an outdated system” that “had its place in 1957.”

“If you want to watch that, that’s fine, but why am I using taxpayer dollars to prop that up? I don’t think we need that, and I’m glad to veto that bill.”

Later on, a Stitt spokeswoman provided examples of this LGBTQ+ “indoctrination” to Tulsa World. She explained that OETA had put on Pride Month programming over the past few years and also mentioned a PBS Newshour segment in which the parents of a trans child spoke about the benefits of gender-affirming care. She also decried episodes from two children’s cartoons (Work it out Wombats! and Clifford the Big Red Dog) that included lesbian characters.

Ken Busby, a board member at the fundraising nonprofit Friends of OETA, slammed Stitt’s recklessness in vetoing the bill.

“No civilization since the Norman Conquest in 1066 has survived that did not support arts and culture,” he told KTUL. “They’re all gone. Civilization is about its culture, its history, and its arts.”

But even more, Busby explained that the veto is putting the state’s safety systems at risk, as OETA is in charge of managing many of them.

“Tornado warnings, Amber Alerts, those kinds of things. They’re from our broadcast towers, which are scattered across the state.”

He also said OETA has the most-watched PBS station in the country and mocked the governor’s discomfort.

“I have a device called a remote control, and I can turn it off. I can change the channel. I can go read a book. I can go do something else. I can go play frisbee.”

Parents are also worried about losing the channel, with one stating that “it would suck” and another explaining that “people that don’t have kids may not realize how well they’ve done.”

Busby also told Tulsa World, “OETA serves a diverse population, and Oklahoma has a diverse population,” he said. “People need to be given choices, and they can choose what they wish to watch and not watch. No one’s dictating that you have to watch this program or like this program.”

Bob Spinks, who is also on the Friends of OETA board, told KOCO that a third of the funding for OETA comes from the government and that the state holds the station’s license. Without the bill’s approval, the station would shut down.

The same day he vetoed the OETA bill, Stitt also vetoed 19 other bills, angering lawmakers on both sides of the aisle by telling them he would continue to veto all legislation authored by senators who do not support his education bill.

“I think it’s beneath the dignity of that office to issue the type of vetoes he did,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R).

It would take two-thirds of the state legislature to override Stitt’s veto. If they don’t do so by July 1st, the funding will sunset, and OETA will be at risk of shutting down.

On Monday, Stitt continued his war on the LGBTQ+ community and signed S.B. 613, which bans all forms of gender-affirming care – including reversible puberty blockers – for anyone under the age of 18. It also makes it a felony for doctors to provide this care to trans youth and allows prosecution of health care professionals until their patients turn 45.

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