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Polish watchdog backs off `Teletubbies' comment

Ewa Sowinska, ombudsman for children's rights, said in the latest edition of a magazine that the purse-carrying character on the British Broadcastinhg Corp.'s "Teletubbies" children's show could promote homosexuality.

Journalists from the weekly "Wprost" mentioned claims the "Teletubbies" promote homosexuality, to which Sowinska replied that she had heard of the issue. The journalists then asked about Tinky Winky.

"I noticed that he has a purse, but I didn't realize he's a boy. At first I thought that must be a bother for him," Sowinska told the magazine in an interview her office approved before publication. "Later I learned that there could be some hidden homosexual undertones."

Sowinska said she would ask her office's psychologists to look into the allegations "and judge whether it can be shown on public television and whether the suggested problem really exists."

On Tuesday, Sowinska's spokeswoman Wieslawa Lipinska told The Associated Press that Sowinska "hasn't asked and won't ask" psychologists to investigate whether "Teletubbies" promote homosexuality.

"They are fictional characters, they have nothing to do with reality, and the bag and scissors and other props the fictional characters use are there to create a fictional world that speaks to children," Lipinska said. "We are not going to deal with this issue any more."

Sowinska is a member of the League of Polish Families party, which is militantly anti-gay rights and anti-abortion. The party is a junior member in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

A similar controversy erupted in the United States in 1999 when a publication belonging to the evangelical leader, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, suggested that Tinky Winky was gay.

In a statement Tuesday, the BBC denied the allegations against the program.

"Children love to play with bags of all kinds and this fascination is reflected in Tinky Winky's favorite thing," the BBC said. "To suggest the series has a political agenda is simply not true."

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