Kids' Host Fails PBS Purity Test

August 7, 2006

Editor’s Note: Thanks for the tip, Lorrie! -Elisa

Mothers of toddlers are inundating PBS’s Sprout network with letters and petitions opposing the public broadcaster’s firing of Melanie Martinez, host of the “Good Night Show,” according to the New York Times. Apparently, Martinez, an actress and mother in New York, appeared in a video seven years ago spoofing sex abstinence programs. While the videos weren’t pornographic, they were carried on TechnicalVirgin.com, a racy website once lauded by Maxim and Howard Stern, but has since been dismantled to advocate on Martinez’s behalf.

Martinez, who immediately visited her parents in Texas to get “that parent hug I needed,” is crushed. “I’m sad that I don’t have a job and also sad I don’t have that job.” The firing of the popular host from the “Good Night Show,” in which Martinez introduced cartoons and made arts and crafts between the segments, raises the question of whether past misdeeds should prevent people from working with children.

The president of PBS, Paula Kerger, told The Los Angeles Times last week that Ms. Martinez would probably not have been hired had executives known of the videos because “she’s not an actress — she really is supposed to embody the service itself.”

In a statement to parents posted on its Web site, sproutletsgrow.com, Sprout says that “the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool program host and may undermine her character’s credibility with our audience.”

That didn’t sit well with many parents, who deluged the network with complaints and started two petitions to have her reinstated. Many messages noted that toddlers were unlikely to be surfing the Internet and stumble across the past work.

We don’t watch the “Good Night Show” in our home. But I am glad parents are taking a stand on PBS’s “purity test” for its hosts. It’s one thing if Martinez is a convict and there is a warrant out for her arrest. But, considering she is an actress who has probably had to pay her dues and take many questionable roles, it is unfair to judge her on this one video. Unless the adults make a big deal of it, there is no way a three-year-old is going to associate their beloved host with sex.

Plus, how many of us have lived the perfect, puritan life — never partook in underage drinking, smoking pot, premarital sex, fill in the blank. The witch hunt reminds me of the time the media asked Bill Clinton and Al Gore if they smoked pot in the ’60s. If we all had to undergo such a purity test for jobs, none of us would be allowed near children!