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Senate Aide's Bert & Ernie Boyz Joke, Not So Funny to All

Proving yet again the dangers of "reply all" in e-mail, a Republican Senate aide managed to offend his colleagues during a bipartisan e-mail exchange Tuesday with a joke implying Bert and Ernie -- the beloved duo from Sesame Street -- are more than just roommates.

The e-mail exchange began innocently enough with an invitation from an aide to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) encouraging all Senate staff to attend a meeting on Wednesday with representatives from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, and USO (United Service Organizations). The purpose of the Sesame Workshop meeting, Ron Hopkins of McCaskill's office explained, is to "discuss the impact of military deployment on the families and communities of military personnel, with special attention paid to the effects of deployment on young children."

Then came the offending "reply all" e-mail:

"Is it true that Bert and Ernie will be conducting a briefing on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell?'" wrote Rob Palmer, a military affairs aide to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Not everyone thought it was as funny as Palmer did. And Palmer pretty quickly understood that his joke went over like a lead balloon with many of the staffers, a number of whom are gay. Palmer e-mailed this apology:

"A few hours ago, I made a very tasteless joke in reply to Ron Hopkins' e-mail. I apologize if my remark offended anyone. It does not reflect my respect for the sponsors of the program or the value of the program for children. As a father of young children who has deployed, I assure you that this is a great thing.

"Again, I offer my deepest and sincerest apologies for my remark."

One Senate Democratic aide who forwarded the e-mail exchange to the Sleuth felt the apology was too little too late. "He shouldn't have sent it to start with," said the aide, who requested anonymity. "This is a bipartisan e-mail exchange."

We'll see what Bert and Ernie have to say at Wednesday's briefing.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  September 23, 2008; 6:10 PM ET
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Oh come on. You've got to admit that's pretty funny. I don't even find it remotely offensive. Man, political correctness really takes the air out of comedy.

Posted by: Nick | September 24, 2008 3:36 AM | Report abuse

What a surprise, it turned out to be an aide for Demint (R SC).

Here's Demint from his 2004 Senate race:

"The three-term congressman apologized last week and again Tuesday night for his comments about unwed, pregnant teachers being unfit to stand in front of the classroom. He came under fire from gay rights groups for saying openly gay men and women should not be public school teachers"

Oh well, there goes Bristol Palin's teaching career !

Posted by: MA | September 24, 2008 7:05 AM | Report abuse

First off, it IS very funny. Second, note the little anonymous snark ("the Democratic aide who forwarded the email to Sleuth") judges the apology is "too little too late" and "shouldn't have been sent at all." What a moron. The nature of apologies is that they are sent AFTER a perceived gaff or injury.

And, frankly, no apology was necessary except to the little intolerant totalitarian leftists with a Johnny One Note agenda, like that Democratic anonymous (how conveeeeeeenient) "aide." I think that aide needs to apologize and I hope we find out who "it" is. Becaise when our fellow humans start behaving like agenda-ized machines, creating havoc and pain for everyone else even though it's clear it was a JOKE, then "it" is the perfectly rational term to use.

Posted by: Phil | September 24, 2008 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Ma! You even managed to bring Sarah Palin's child into this. What a joy you are, what a bastion for the Policy of Hope and Change.

On second though, nah. You're just another "it" in the big book.

Posted by: Phil | September 24, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Consider the source. Demint IS a gay baiter and basher, in fact used his comments in the 2004 SC race to solidify his base.

This is standard right wing political fare.....drop the offending comment, wait to see what the fall out is.....and then yuk the whole thing off as a joke when it goes over like a fart in church.

I wonder if Demint would consider Palin to be a failure as a parent and unqualified to be VP, seeing as she has an unwed pregnant daughter ?

Posted by: MA | September 24, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Who brought up unwed pregnant women being unfit to teach in SC ?

Lo and behold, little Jim Demint.

How would Senator Jim enforce his poliicies if he had his druthers. Fire gay teachers or those that were unwed and pregnant ? Now there's some progressive thinking.

And who dropped this "joke" about gay aide for little Jim Demint. What a shock !

Do all the right wingers think Sponge Bob and the Sesame street gang are gay ?

Posted by: MA | September 24, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

This is so funny. Efforts to help the children of deployed military personnel to deal with the loss and trauma of a parent gone away from home. HAHAHAHAHA
What a real F-ing JOKE!!!!

Ron Palmer's talents are being wasted on the Hill. He should be on Comedy Central.

Posted by: :-) | September 24, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Now THAT was funny!!!

Posted by: blackspeak,DC,USA | September 24, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't a real apology. A real apology says "I'm sorry I offended", accepting responsibility. Saying "if I offended" is the non-apology most in use these days. He's not sorry he said it, just sorry he got flak for it. On the other hand, it could be seen as a comment on the absurdity of believing any sexuality is involved between muppets on a kids show. We have serious situations to deal in government. Taking offense at an aide's frivolity seems a waste of time.

Posted by: gup | September 24, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The far left, gays and others need to get a life if they can't take a joke. All this political correctness is a "joke"...

Posted by: Michael E. Banyacki | September 24, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

The "Bert and Ernie are gay" line has been around for years. It seems to me that any offensiveness about it is staler than movie-house popcorn. Why get so excited about everything anyone says?

I might add that I do my best to be politically correct at all times, and I understand that words have meanings and can hurt. It just seems to me that this one was too old and too silly to be worth bothering with.

Posted by: MaineWoman | September 24, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

If you've based your political career on using 'sexual morality', claiming that the collapse of society will result unless gays and unwed mothers and drug users are stopped, then you don't get ignore it when your own team has gay members, unwed pregnant children and get busted using drugs.

Lighten up, it's just a joke, doesn't cut it.

Posted by: thebob.bob | September 24, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Time to dump the congressional and senate scum.. aka NEO-CONS.

As a hypocrite offering apologies to cover his butt, Mr. Palmer (Millitary Officer)is likely an evangelical christian giving Jesus a bad name.

These people are dirty hypocrites and full of hate

Posted by: DUMP THE SCUM | September 24, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Not a bad joke if you consider it on it's merits.

The fact that it came from a DeMint aid made it offensive to many, based on DeMint's record of gay bashing.

There's more to be outraged about in the world than this inoffensive joke.

Posted by: towntalk | September 24, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

People who are offended by someone else's words need to examine their self confidence. Why would anyone care about anything anyone else says -- particularly if it's meant as a joke.

How is this joke/comment the least bit offensive? Anyone who took offense must believe there is something wrong with being gay. And/or must be trying to score political points -- for what purpose, I don't know.

Posted by: Paco | September 25, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

There's gotta be a more important issue for politicians to squabble about other then whether or not two Muppets off Sesame Street are gay. Honestly, is it really worth it? I mean, Bert and Ernie aren't even real people. I guarantee you, the two puppets aren't offended.

Posted by: Jeff | September 25, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm a liberal who supports gay rights and I thought that was a pretty funny email - probably one I'd make myself. I don't think the people who were offended should be labeled as anything other than "humorless." Such is DC, I've learned.

Posted by: CB | September 30, 2008 5:32 AM | Report abuse

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