Metro Weekly

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Wants to Kill PBS

Kevin Stitt vetoed all state funding for Oklahoma's PBS station, claiming the channel is engaged in LGBTQ "indoctrination."

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt – Photo: Gage Skidmore

Kevin Stitt, the Republican Governor of Oklahoma, has defended his decision to veto funding for his state’s public television network. He claims the station is attempting to indoctrinate children by exposing them to LGBTQ-themed content.

Stitt halted a bill that would have funded the operations of the state’s PBS station, Oklahoma Educational Television Authority through 2026.

He argued that taxpayer dollars should not fund educational television programming.

Unless the legislature overrides Stitt’s veto, the station — which provides programming like Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Curious George, and Arthur — will cease operations this year. 

“OETA, to us, is an outdated system,” Stitt told Fox News Digital in an interview defending his decision. “You know, the big, big question is why are we spending taxpayer dollars to prop up or compete with the private sector and run television stations?

“And then when you go through all of the programming that’s happening and the indoctrination and over-sexualization of our children, it’s just really problematic, and it doesn’t line up with Oklahoma values.”

As examples of the type of programming to which Stitt objects, the governor’s office pointed to a segment of Let’s Learn in which a drag queen, Lil Miss Hot Mess, read aloud a children’s book titled The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish.

It also pointed to a PBS Newshour feature on parents of transgender children who support allowing their children to access gender-affirming treatments, including puberty blockers; a gay character in Work It Out Wombats; the inclusion of LGBTQ characters on Clifford the Big Red Dog; Pride Month-themed programming; a special about a town of Christians and drag queens who “step into the spotlight to dismantle stereotypes”; and a same-sex wedding featured on the show Odd Squad.

Critics have pushed back against Stitt’s assertion that the programs are being used to indoctrinate children or pressuring them to identify as LGBTQ. The inclusion of such characters and content, they say, only shows children that it’s okay for people to be different.

But Stitt also doesn’t believe that LGBTQ-inclusive programming is particularly educational.

“When you think about educating kids, let’s teach them to read and their numbers and counting and letters and those kind of things,” Stitt said. “I mean, some of the programming that we’re seeing — it just doesn’t need to be on public television.”

He added that if OETA’s programs are popular enough, they will be picked up by for-profit television stations like CBS, NBC, ABC, or cable. Therefore, the state should not be subsidizing such programming.

“Oklahoma taxpayers are going, ‘Hey, hang on, time out for just a second. That’s not my values,'” Stitt said, referring to the inclusion of LGBTQ content. “I’m just tired of using taxpayer dollars for some person’s agenda. I represent the taxpayers.”

He also questioned the need for public television altogether, saying that the growth and diversification of media make it possible for PBS shows to find their way onto non-PBS stations.

“Maybe in 1957 you could have made an argument that you needed a public television station. That’s totally outdated at this point,” Stitt said.

The governor’s opponents have pointed out that OETA airs tornado warnings, natural disaster warnings, and Amber Alerts in addition to educational programming.

Stitt argues that none of those services will go away, but will simply be taken over by state agencies.

For example, the state Department of Public Safety will continue issuing Amber Alerts in cases where a child is missing or is believed to have been abducted. 

Stitt also refuted arguments that he’s harming the arts, engaging in censorship, or attacking public education, pointing to his budget requests for increased education funding and dismissing such attacks as “red herrings” seeking to justify continuing to air programming that conservatives may find objectionable, reports Fox News.

A conservative nonprofit, Citizens Defending Freedom, is backing Stitt’s call for stripping funding from PBS, pointing to the channel’s promotion of “toolkits” that teachers can use to better address LGBTQ issues or pursue teaching methods or lessons designed to avoid perpetuating systemic racism, which CDF says promotes “critical race theory principles.”

“PBS is clearly engaged in promoting inappropriate LGBTQ+ and critical race theory propaganda to our children,” Citizens Defending Freedom Chief Communications Officer Kristen Huber said in a press release.

Stitt also told Fox News that he believes Republicans can be successful in the 2024 elections by emphasizing transgender and LGBTQ issues, including their opposition to gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgery for transgender youth, transgender participation in sports, and LGBTQ content in classrooms and on library shelves.

As governor, Stitt has signed into law bills that require transgender students to use only facilities matching their assigned sex at birth, ban doctors from prescribing gender-affirming health care treatments to youth suffering from gender dysphoria, make it easier to declare books or graphic novels “obscene” in order to have them pulled from library shelves, prevent transgender people from attempting to change their gender marker on vital documents, and prohibit transgender athletes from competing on female-designated sports teams.

Stitt said that because Republicans are generally more united in opposing any displays or demonstrations of LGBTQ identity, they can gain an edge over Democrats, who are more divided on culture-war issues — and who, according to more recent polling, may be growing out of step with most Americans’ opinions on transgender issues.

“We believe in traditional family values. We’re not going to let biological males participate in girls’ sports,” he said. 

“We have an obligation to protect our children and protect sports and protect free competition and fair competition in Oklahoma. And so to us, it’s pretty common sense. And I hope it’s an issue in the general election in 2024, because I think we win on that with Americans.”

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