Tinky Winky Defended

A city famous for its radical politics is coming out in defense of Tinky Winky.

Earlier this month, the purple character from the childrenÂ's show Teletubbies was branded a homosexual role model by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Now, BerkeleyÂ's City Council has drawn up a resolution in support of Tinky Winky.

"We take umbrage at the threat to personal style and choices implicit in Mr. Falwell's designation of Tinky Winky as an inappropriate role model," declares the resolution, expected to be passed by the City Council Tuesday. "Long live Tinky Winky and long live freedom from self-righteousness!"

Councilwoman Polly Armstrong, sponsor of the resolution, said she wanted to make a point and have some fun in a city known for taking stands on everything from nuclear proliferation (against) to human rights in Burma (for).

"We jump on every good cause in Berkeley and I thought what fun to do one we could laugh at. Of course there is a very serious subtext to the humor and that is that when you see bigotry and self-righteousness out there you really need to stand up to it even when it's absurd," she said.

Under the headline "Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet," an article in the February edition of the National Liberty Journal noted that Tinky Winky has the voice of a boy yet carries a purse.

"He is purple, the gay-pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle, the gay-pride symbol," the story said. The paper is edited and published by Falwell.

Falwell told CBS This Morning at the time that the national media had reported that the gay community had accepted Tinky Winky as an icon and he was passing the information on to the clergy who received the magazine.

"Our editor was saying parents should take a personal interest in what their children are watching," Falwell said then. He also said people must be careful because Christians believe that Jesus Christ, through his Gospel, says the gay lifestyle is wrong.

Joan Garry, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the matter wasnÂ't a discussion "about the sexual orientation of a purple guy on a kids' TV show... This is a conversation about a message of promoting prejudice based on deeply ingrained stereotypes."

A spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co., which licenses the Teletubbies in the United States, said that what Falwell's newspaper described as a purse was actually Tinky Winky's magic bag.

"The fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him gay," Steve Rice said. "It's a children's show, folks. To think we would be putting sexual innuendo in a children's show is kind of outlandish."

The British show aimed at toddlers began airing on U.S. public television stations last spring and is now as popular as Barney, a singing dinosaur who also happens to be purple.

The Teletubbies are portrayed by actors in oversized, brightly colored costumes. They all have television screens o their tummies and, according to the story line, live in a superdome hidden in the hills.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed