University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and WQED-TV (13) announced today that they have cloned Fred Rogers.

Using DNA found in hair and skin fragments on a sweater once owned by the late children’s TV host, doctors say they have successfully grown a duplicate in a lab at UPMC Shadyside.

Once memories of the beloved public television icon are loaded into the clone’s brain, said a WQED spokesman, it will be asked to create a new children’s series that can run for at least as long as Rogers’ landmark “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Critics of public television call the cloning effort a tacit admission by WQED staff that they’re scraping the bottom of the programming barrel.

“Actually, we’re also loading in some memories from Deepak Chopra, Suze Orman and Dr. Wayne Dyer,” a WQED official confided. “And maybe some doo-wop songs.”

He and other members of the WQED board are worried that a new Fred Rogers might insist on creating “educational” television, instead of something more marketable.

“The whole puppet-trolley thing was nice in its day, but it doesn’t move merchandise or pledge premiums,” the official told PBRTV. “And that’s what we’re all about these days.”

The new effort, funded by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation and financial contributions from viewers like you, is actually the second attempt to clone Rogers.

The first clone, developed as a joint venture between WQED-TV and Dr. Emcee Square, a host on low-power commercial station WBGN-TV, turned into a “Zombie Rogers” that attacked the panelists during a September 2007 taping of “Off Q.”

Although Zombie Rogers ate the panelists’ brains, the program continued as scheduled and no viewers apparently noticed.

A close friend of Rogers who asked not to be identified said the cloning efforts raised troubling ethical and moral questions.

“Meow meow weird meow meow creepy meow think I’ll meow meow move to West Virginia Public Television,” the anonymous source said.