NRA TV host Dana Loesch showed characters from the children’s TV show “Thomas & Friends” in KKK hoods while discussing the show’s move to diversify its characters.
Last month, the show’s producers announced that Thomas the Tank is getting two new female friends, Rebecca and Nia, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Nia, a little train painted with an African-inspired motif, will be voiced by English actress Yvonne Grundy, who was born in Kenya, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“This is horrible,” Loesch, spokeswoman for the gun-rights group, said on her NRA TV show, “Relentless,” arguing that the show didn’t need ethnic diversity because the train characters have no racial identity to begin with. The clip from the show is on YouTube.
Describing the move as “the next stop in Virtue Town,” Loesch said: “Thomas the Tank is now bringing gender balance to the show by adding girl trains. Seriously. One of those trains, Nia, will be from Kenya to add ethnic diversity to the show.
“And ... which that by the way, that’s where it gets really strange to me because I’ve looked at Thomas and Friends, at their pictures, and I see gray and blue. Am I to understand this entire time that Thomas and his trains were white? Because they all have gray faces. How do you bring ethnic diversity?”
Mentioning “some sort of African pattern on the side of Nia’s engine,” she wondered how ethnic diversity is added “to a show that literally has no ethnicities because they’re trains. They don’t even have skin pigmentation.”
Then she showed a picture of Thomas the Tank and two of his friends wearing white KKK hoods.
“Oh, was it because, I see it. It was the white hoods. And the burning train tracks. OK, fine, fair point. Fair. I get it. Thomas the Tank Engine has been a blight on race relations for far too long. Clearly this is overdue. Right?” she said.
The segment aired on Friday, the same day the show debuted its new season and announced its collaboration with the United Nations, according to The Hill.
“The new series has 20 episodes and a number of half-hour specials with themes related to traveling and exploring the world,” wrote Heavy.com. “The show is now seen in the U.K. where it originated, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.”
The new season incorporate themes that mirror goals the UN uses in its work of building “a healthy planet,” including gender equality, quality education and responsible consumption, according to the United Nations website.
Loesch’s comments “echoed complaints by some that the additions amounted to politically correct pandering,” wrote The New York Times.
“But it confounded many others who wondered why a spokeswoman for an organization known for fierce advocacy of gun rights would weigh in on programming aimed at preschoolers.”
The Thomas the Tank Engine franchise debuted in 1946, and adding the new female, multicultural characters “was the biggest refresh in the British franchise’s 73-year history,” noted The Hollywood Reporter.
The “some sort of African pattern on the side of Nia’s engine” that Loesch referenced is a “design based on traditional Maasai and Samburu patterns,” according to the Brand South Africa website.
The Johannesburg marketing agency called Nia, who is based on an East African Railways engine from the 1920s, “an accurate and reverent African character.”
Loesch, who called the show’s characters “really weird, anthropomorphic trains,” said her youngest child loved the show but added, “I can’t stand the show. It’s creepy.”