SpongeBob SquarePants, the wacky cartoon character who sparked a gay alert warning by US Christian conservative groups, is neither gay nor straight, says his creator.
He is asexual.
Two Christian activist groups said the innocent and hugely popular SpongeBob and his best mate, Patrick Starfish, were being exploited to promote acceptance of homosexuality.
SpongeBob's creator, Stephen Hillenburg, 43, said the allegations were far-fetched and his agenda did not go beyond fun and entertainment.
"It doesn't have anything to do with what we're trying to do," Hillenburg said in an interview on Friday, two days before the Asian premiere of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in Singapore.
"We never intended them to be gay. I consider them to be almost asexual. We're just trying to be funny and this has got nothing to do with the show."
Naive SpongeBob, who lives in a pineapple under the Pacific Ocean, was "outed" by the US media in 2002 after reports that the Nickelodeon TV show and its merchandise were popular with gays.
Influential American radio evangelist James Dobson, whose top political issues include opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights, said last week that SpongeBob had been included in a "pro-homosexual video".
SpongeBob is one of the stars of a music video due to be sent to 61 000 US schools in March.
The makers - the non-profit We Are Family Foundation -say the video is designed to encourage tolerance and diversity.
"Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity' within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary, but crosses a moral line," said Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
Hillenburg, a marine science teacher turned animator, who lives in Hollywood and is married with a six-year-old son, says he thinks there are "more important issues to worry about".
"I really don't pay much attention to this."
Such allegations were common in the history of cartoon and children's entertainment, he said.
"Just think of Laurel and Hardy or Ernie and Bert," he said, referring to two popular American comic icons - the former from the 1930s and the latter from the children's TV series Sesame Street. - Reuters