Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash takes leave of absence from 'Sesame Street' after being accused of sex with underage boy
Kevin Clash, the Sesame Street puppeteer famous the world over as the voice of Elmo, has been granted a leave of absence by his employer following allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy. That's right, The Juice* is going to ruin Sesame Street for you, too.
TMZ broke the story that Clash, 52, had been accused of repeated dalliances with the boy seven years ago, when the other party was 16 and Clash was 45. Clash denies the allegations, saying his relationship was both consensual and began when the other man was 18.
"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter," Clash told People in a statement. "I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
Sesame Workshop told outlets in a statement they had indeed been contacted by the accuser, saying they met with him twice and corresponded several times. TMZ says the accuser is saying Sesame Workshop tried to keep him from talking, because it may look bad if the world found out the mastermind behind Elmo liked to date teenage boys. The puppet shop is denying this, saying they asked the accuser for evidence, but he never produced any.
"Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined," Sesame Workshop said in a statement.That Internet usage was allegedly using company email to write love letters to his pal, although there's no indication those emails happened while the accuser was a minor.
The accuser, who has hired the same law firm as one of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's victims, sent TMZ an email allegedly from Clash confirming the improper relationship, but Sesame Workshop is suspicious because the accuser never provided that email to them. They are standing by their puppeteer, however, even though his career may be ruined whether the allegations are proven false or not.
As for everyone's favorite red monster, he'll still be around: "Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world." And more importantly, inspire toys to sell to those kids. Hey, PBS wages aren't what keep these folks living high on the hog, you know.
[Photo: Getty Images]