07/17/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT
Despite earlier reports that "Sesame Street" was planning to introduce an HIV-positive character to young U.S. viewers, PBS says the Muppet will only be shown in South Africa, where one in nine people are HIV-positive, and that an American version of the puppet was never intended, reports the New York Post. As Variety reported on Monday, several Republican members of the House committee on energy and commerce expressed concern about the development of such a character in a letter to PBS President Pat Mitchell, in which government funding toward the show was questioned. "I think there was a big mistake made," Robert Knezevic, vice president of international co-productions for New York-based Sesame Workshop, which produces the children's show, told the Post about the exaggerated reports that an HIV-positive Muppet would be featured in the U.S. "Categorically, there are no plans to put this Muppet on the American 'Sesame Street.' I think this story kind of ran away." In the past week, the subject has become a source of debate on news shows such as "The O'Reilly Factor." The genesis of the controversy began when it was announced that a female HIV-positive Muppet would be featured on the South African version of "Sesame Street."