Legislation /

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Stands By Decision to Cut Funding for PBS

Stitt objected to using tax-generated funding to support content that contributes to 'the indoctrination and over-sexualization' of children in Oklahoma

Governor Kevin Stitt has defended his decision to end funding for Oklahoma Educational Television Authority – his state’s PBS station.

Stitt cited concerns about “long-term strategic value” when he opted to veto House Bill 2820 to expand the OETA’s authority on April 26. The bill had been unanimously supported by the Oklahoma House. The Senate voted 41-7 in favor of the bill, which would allocate government funding for the television station for the subsequent year.

With the governor’s veto, the OETA has one additional year to close down its operations. Any remaining funding will be transferred to the state’s general revenue fund.

Stitt had called the OETA an “outdated system” and doubled down on his opposition to continue funding the content offered by the publicly funded station.

“Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to prop up the OETA? It makes no sense to me,” Stitt said at a press conference on April 28, per Current. “When you further look at the programming … I don’t think Oklahomans want to use their tax dollars to indoctrinate kids.”

“And some of the stuff that they’re showing, it just overly sexualizes our kids,” the governor continued. “There’s parents defend[ing] child transition on PBS that’s being played, there’s elevating LGBTQIA2S+ voices. … 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.”

In 2022, Stitt vetoed a bill to provide the OETA with $8.1 million to replace transmitters and improve its infrastructure because he said it was “not responsible” to spend money on upgrades “without a clear, long-term strategic plan.” The decision was controversial as the transmitters support the WARN network which transmits Ambert Alters or weather-related emergency signals, per KFOR.

Critics of Stitt’s action argue that OETA is an asset to the state’s residents.

Scary Mommy, an outlet which aims to connect “women in every aspect of their lives,” called the Stitt administration’s issues with PBS’s content “homophobic, offensive, and overblown.”

“OETA serves a diverse population, and Oklahoma has a diverse population,” Friends of OETA board member Ken Busby said in a comment featured in the outlet’s coverage of the veto. “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.”

State Representative Monroe Nichols, a Democrat, said that “the veto has nothing to do with what is good for Oklahoma.”

“The legislature faces the task of preserving OETA, an Oklahoma institution for nearly seven decades, which serves as a vital resource for Oklahomans, particularly low and middle-income families,” Nichols said in a May 1 statement. “OETA delivers engaging educational, cultural, and informational content that encourages early childhood education and state pride, all while backing local communities through school collaborations, ad-free programming, and emergency broadcasts. … It is clear Governor Stitt saw another governor pick a fight with Mickey Mouse so now he’s doing his best to keep pace by sticking it to Big Bird.”

Stitt defended his decision to end funding for the OETA during an interview with Fox News Digital on May 7. 

The big, big question is why are we spending taxpayer dollars to prop up or compete with the private sector and run television stations?” he said. “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 questionable content televised by the network, the governor’s office has pointed to an episode of “Let’s Learn” where Lil Miss Hot Mess read a children’s book titled “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” and an episode of “PBS Newshour” featuring parents who support giving puberty blockers to minors who identify as transgender. Additionally, Stitt’s office has noted that a number of children’s shows – including Clifford the Big Red Dog, Work It Out Wombats, and Odd Squad – have introduced LGBTQ characters, stories about same-sex marriage, and specialty programming to mark Pride Month.

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

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall has not yet publicly said if the legislature is considering an attempt to override Stitt’s veto.

Former President Donald Trump floated the idea of cutting funding for PBS in 2017.

*For corrections please email [email protected]*