By all accounts, Cerrie Burnell has the skills and make-up to be terrific in her new role has co-host for Cbeebies, a BBC children’s show aimed at kids 6 years old and under.
It’s just that Burnell was born with one hand, and the plainly visible disability has roiled some British parents who worry what impact the gestalt might have on their children.
BBC Spokesperson Katya Mira said the network has received at least 25 “official” complaints since Burnell joined the show in January, and that’s not counting dozens more negative comments posted in chat rooms and blogs.
One father complained for example that the hostess forced him to discuss disabilities with his child before he would have preferred.
Mira was quick to add that the BBC has “received 99 appreciations of (Burnell),” according to CNN.
Before joining Cbeebies, Burnell had worked as an actress for theater companies in Manchester, England and Brazil.
BBC’s January news release introducing Burnell did not mention her disability, although it was accompanied by a PR photo in which the right sleeve of her sweater was rolled up leaving the missing lower limb in plain sight.
Burnell has heard the criticism and remains unperturbed.
“It can only be a good thing that parents are using me as a chance to talk disability with their children. It just goes to show how important it is to have positive, disabled role models on CBeebies and television in general,” Burnell told CNN.
And BBC controller Michael Carrington voiced strong support for Burnell. “Cerrie is warm and natural and we think that, in time, all moms and dads and children will love her as much as we do,” he said.