Kermit the Frog with Jason Segel and Miss Piggy.
Kermit the Frog with Jason Segel and Miss Piggy. The Muppets Studio/Andrew Macpherson

It ain't easy being green - or red

IT ain't easy being green, but in an America that marches to the beat of shouty rolling-news networks, it's even harder being red. Just ask Kermit the Frog.

The Muppets have been accused of brainwashing a nation's children with Communist propaganda because their new movie features as its villain the chief executive of an oil company.

This surreal controversy erupted on Monday after Eric Bolling, a right-wing pundit employed by Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, voiced outrage at the fact that Tex Richman, the film's fictional baddie, is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune from fossil fuels.

In a segment of his business show Follow the Money, which rapidly went viral, Mr Bolling said he was disgusted that a movie aimed at young audiences should portray successful job creators in such a negative fashion.

"We're teaching our kids class warfare," he said. "What are we? Communist China?" Then he brought on Dan Gainor, of a conservative monitoring organisation called the Media Research Center, and asked: "Is liberal Hollywood brainwashing our kids?"

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Mr Gainor replied in the affirmative. "It's amazing how far the left will go just to stop, just to manipulate your kids," he said. "To convince them, to give them an anti-corporate message."

In the plot of The Muppets movie, which opened last month, Mr Richman is seeking to destroy the theatre where the puppets perform to drill for "sweet, sweet oil".

To Mr Gainor, that forms part of a dubious pattern. He cited such films as Pixar's Cars 2, which also portrayed the oil industry in a negative fashion, as evidence of an anti-corporate bias. "Ultimately, what they're telling kids is what they told you in the movie The Matrix: that mankind is a virus on poor, old Mother Earth," he said.

Back in the studio, the Fox News host Andrea Tantanos took the ball and ran with it. "It's brainwashing in the most obvious form, right?" she said. "I just wish liberals could leave little kids alone."

Video clips of their seven-minute discussion were swiftly disseminated via the internet, sparking furious debate. To observers on the left, it provided a note-perfect case study in the paranoid excesses of America's most influential conservative news outlet.

Media Matters, a liberal monitoring organisation that streamed the clip on its website, was particularly amused by a moment in which Bolling declared that the "real villain" of The Muppets should be "the Obama administration".

In case people thought it was part of a satirical spoof, the site stressed that Mr Bolling's comments were indeed taken from a genuine piece of Fox footage. The Washington Post warned Fox was ignoring that Kermit and Miss Piggy promote an interspecies relationship.

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