Boris Johnson Claps Back at Kermit the Frog

Is it easy bein’ green? Depends on if you ask the U.K. prime minister or the amphibian Muppet

Boris Johnson standing at United Nations podium with a thought bubble of Kermit the Frog.
Boris Johnson: Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images / Kermit the Frog: Disney. Art by Jack Koloskus.
Strong Statements

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson took aim at a powerful foe in a United Nations address on Wednesday night in New York: the lean, mean, green Kermit the Frog.

“When Kermit the Frog sang, ‘It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green,’ I want you to know that he was wrong,” said Johnson, referencing the Muppets song in which Kermit laments bein’ green. “It is easy, lucrative, and right to be green, although he was unnecessarily rude to Miss Piggy, I thought.”

But while one could debate whether or not the amphibian puppet was rude to Miss Piggy or simply asserting his boundaries, the spirit of Johnson’s random character assassination is, shockingly, hard to argue with. In mentioning “green,” the prime minister was not talking about Kermit’s skin color, but was making a point (kind of) about climate change, to which he dedicated the entirety of his 20-minute speech.

Johnson likened humanity to a teenager who has reached their “sweet 16,” and is now on the cusp of all sorts of trouble that could have serious consequences. “We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure and we combine this narcissism with an assumption of our own immortality. We believe that someone else will clear up the mess, because that is what someone else has always done,” he said. “It’s time for humanity to grow up.”

He urged world leaders to take action and help achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century to save the planet, which is not “some indestructible toy” or “some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart’s content.”

While the colorful language was not out of the norm for the newspaper columnist-turned-politician — just recently, Johnson said that France should “prenez un grip” and “donnez-moi un break” in regards to a flap over submarines — the prime minister’s recent turn towards eco-mindedness stands in stark contrast to his long-running climate skepticism. While Johnson claimed in his speech that he is still “not one of those environmentalists who takes a moral pleasure in excoriating humanity for its excess [and sees] the green movement as a pretext for a wholesale assault on capitalism,” he said on Monday that his previous views on climate change have changed.

Critics are still skeptical about whether or not Johnson and other leaders will follow up their green-friendly remarks with strong enough policy changes to have the needed impact. At least the rhetorical flourishes are grabbing attention, though — and all the prime minister had to do was malign a beloved childhood Muppet to do so.