Sesame Street has threatened to take legal action against a company that was suggesting Bert and Ernie might have contracted STDs.
Mately offers at-home testing services for people with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and reportedly used the characters in an ad campaign without permission.
The spot shows Bert and Ernie examining papers with the caption over the image, “See Ernie, you’ve got nothing to worry about, everything is positive!”
In a statement issued to TMZ by a spokesperson for Sesame Workshop, they said,
“The Mately ad is an unauthorized, unlicensed use of our characters. We will be contacting Mately and the appropriate parties with a cease and desist letter instructing them to take this down.”
The controversy over the ad has once again sparked conversations about the duo’s relationship and sexual orientation.
Sesame Workshop released a statement to their Facebook page in 2011 on the topic.
“Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Mately eventually removed the ad and issued a statement to BBC’s Newsbeat.
The company’s CEO, Brandon Greenberg offered his apologies.
“We sincerely apologise if we offended anyone or if any images were used inappropriately. This was by no means part of an advertising campaign intended to tarnish the Sesame Street brand, but we recognise the issue and all versions of this image have been removed from all Mately websites and social media pages.”