Listen to this article here
In a press conference on Friday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt used anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to defend his decision to defund OETA.
“Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to prop up OETA?” Stitt questioned. “It makes no sense to me.”
“And when you look at the programming, I don’t think Oklahomans want to use their taxpayers to indoctrinate kids.”
While looking down at his notes, Stitt read off two programs he claimed were proof OETA was “over-sexualizing kids”.
One of those programs was called “elevating LGBTQIA2S+ voices”. The other, according to Stitt, was called “Parents Defend Child Transition”.
Stitt said he doesn’t think Oklahoma needs that programming and he was “glad to veto” finding to the broadcasting station.
However, a review of PBS programming shows that there are no regular shows on the network by those titles.
There is a collection of four segments, each between 15 and 35 minutes, highlighting stories of queer individuals in PBS’s online catalogue. Those segments are shown under the category “Celebrating Queer Voices”, which was part of an effort to increase diversity in storytelling.
Likewise, there is no segment with the title “parents defend child transition”. It’s likely the governor is referring to a ten minute story on PBS Newshour that interviewed parents of trans children about their concerns regarding anti-trans legislation.
None of the segments appeared to contain content that would reasonably be described as “overly sexualizing kids”.
Stitt’s attacks on OETA come as a shock to the network and legislators.
OETA, an Oklahoma based member of the PBS network, has provided educational content across a variety of topics for generations.
In 2022, the organization pledged to devote resources to sharing stories from a more diverse range of perspectives. Throughout 2022, PBS increased its diversity in on-screen talent by 54% and ensured at least 86% of its digital production highlighted diverse stories, according to an internal report.
Last year alone, OETA received five Emmy nominations for its reporting and storytelling. It remains one of the most well regarded PBS affiliate stations in the United States.
In contrast to Stitt’s rhetoric, lawmakers in both chambers of the Republican-led legislature overwhelmingly approved additional funding for the station. Stitt’s veto will now require both the House and the Senate to vote to override the decision before July 1st. Without an override, OETA’s ability to continue operating will be put in jeopardy.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Robert Spinks, a founding member of a board supporting OETA, called Stitt’s decision “a tragedy”.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that [OETA] has become a pawn in politics,” Spinks said.
“I don’t believe [Stitt’s] action is in the best interest of the state of Oklahoma.”