Puppeteer Kevin Clash, a.k.a. the voice actor and performer behind Elmo, has resigned from Sesame Street after allegations he had not one but TWO relationships with underage males. That's right, there's another one. But we'll get to that in a minute.
"I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart," Clash said in a statement, according to the New York Times. "I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
Accuser Sheldon Stephens, who recanted his story a day after accusing Clash of having a sexual relationship with him when Stephens was only 16 years old seven years ago, has since recanted again, saying he was pressured to sign a $125,000 settlement claiming he was an adult at the time. Now a man named Cecil Singleton says he and Clash met through a gay phone chat line in 1993 when Singleton was 15 and Clash was 32, and started a sexual relationship -- although there was no sex until Cecil was of age. Wait, what's he doing on a phone sex line at 15?
Singleton is now suing Clash for $5 million, saying the puppeteer "trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys." He said in his suit that Clash won him over by "taking him to nice dinners and giving him money." Why bring this up 19 years after the fact? Singleton says he "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash's sexual acts and conduct until 2012."
Clash took a leave of absence last week after the first round of allegations. Now his former employer was quick to point out this whole mess had nothing to do with its show, but had nothing but nice things to say about him.
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," the company said in a statement. "Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street."
Apprentice puppeteers have been filling in during Clash's absence, since Clash has been training possible replacements for Elmo for years. Now we'll have to wait and see if the Elmo toys move at all during the Christmas shopping season. Tickle Me Elmo suddenly has become an awful double entendre, that's for sure.
[Photo: Getty Images]