Kevin Clash, the man who voices the “Elmo” character on “Sesame Street,” has announced he is taking a leave of absence from the kid-friendly show after allegations that the Muppeteer slept with a 16-year-old male seven years ago when he 45-years-old.Clash, who has won 12 Emmys for “Sesame Street,” acknowledges he had a relationship with the young man, but vehemently denies the claims that the accuser was a minor at the time of the affair.
“I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not,” Clash, who has a daughter, told TMZ.
Sesame Workshop has released a “Statement regarding Kevin Clash” on their website:
In June of this year, Sesame Workshop received a communication from a then 23 year old man who alleged that he had a relationship beginning when he was 16 years old with Kevin Clash, a Sesame Workshop puppeteer who performs as Elmo.
We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. 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.
Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so.
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell TMZ that after the accuser’s initial meeting with Sesame Street, the accuser felt Sesame’s lawyers “were trying to muzzle him … so he lawyered up with Andreozzi and Associates — the firm that represented one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case.”
On August 15, 2012, Andreozzi sent a letter to Sesame accusing the company of trying to “discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters,” adding, “This approach places a greater value on a puppet than the well being of a young man.”
But, according to TMZ, Sesame Workshop officials “conducted a thorough investigation and determined the allegation of underage sex was unsubstantiated. They say they never tried to silence the accuser — rather they asked for evidence supporting his claim, but he never produced it.”
While there were emails found between Clash and the now 23-year-old accuser, they don’t suggest there was underage sex and officials have disciplined Clash for inappropriate use of company email.
In the meantime, Sesame Workshop insists “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, as it has for 40 years.”
In the fall of 2006, Clash released an autobiography titled “My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud.” Clash is the highest-paid Muppeteer ever, thanks to a merchandising deal he struck with toy manufacturers where he voices all Elmo toys.
He is also the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” Watch the trailer below: