UPDATE: Elmo actor Kevin Clash resigns amid sex allegation - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Elmo actor Kevin Clash resigns amid sex allegation

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Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash poses with the "Sesame Street" Muppet during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Victoria Will, File) Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash poses with the "Sesame Street" Muppet during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Victoria Will, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -

Sesame Workshop says Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from "Sesame Street" in the wake of allegations that he had sex with an under-aged youth.

Last week a man accused Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy, a charge Clash denied. A day later, the man recanted his charge. A lawsuit by a second accuser was filed Tuesday, according to attorney Cecil Singleton.

Sesame Workshop called the controversy surrounding Clash's personal life "a distraction that none of us want" and led to his decision to leave the show.

Clash created the voice and persona for Elmo, who has become one of "Sesame Street's" most popular characters.

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In a quick turnabout, a man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy now says they had a relationship as adults and it was consensual.

The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement Tuesday through the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm Andreozzi & Associates. It is not known why he made the accusation.

Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street" in New York, soon followed by saying, "We are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."

Clash also responded with a statement, saying he is "relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest." He had no further comment.

Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated on Tuesday when he might return to the show, on which he has performed as Elmo since 1984.

The whirlwind episode began Monday morning, when Sesame Workshop startled the world by announcing that Clash had taken a leave of absence from "Sesame Street" following allegations that he had had a relationship with a 16-year-old.

The 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter swiftly denied the charges of his accuser, who now is in his 20s. In that statement Clash acknowledged that he is gay but said the relationship had been between two consenting adults.

Though it remained unclear where the relationship took place, sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21.

Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash. Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.

Clash said on Monday he would take a break from Sesame Workshop "to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."

Elmo had previously been a marginal character on "Sesame Street," but Clash, supplying the fuzzy red puppet with a high-pitched voice and a carefree, child-like personality, launched the character into major stardom. Elmo soon rivaled Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."

Though usually behind the scenes, Clash achieved his own measure of fame. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and he was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."

He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.


 

The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" is taking a leave of absence from the iconic kids' show in the wake of allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

Puppeteer Kevin Clash has denied the charges, which, according to Sesame Workshop, were first made in June by the accuser, who by then was 23.

"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in a statement issued Monday. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."

The organization described the relationship as "unrelated to the workplace." Its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.

"I had a relationship with the accuser," Clash said in a statement of his own. "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."

Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21. It was unclear where the relationship took place, and there is no record of any criminal charge against Clash in the state.

Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, added, "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.

"I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation," he said.

Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated how long his absence might be.

"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," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.

"Sesame Street" is in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to publicly discuss details about the show's production.

"Elmo will still be a part of the shows being produced," that person said.

Though usually behind the scenes as Elmo's voice and animator, Clash has become a star in his own right. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."

In addition to his marquee role as Elmo, Clash also serves as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain.

He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.

Clash has been a puppeteer for "Sesame Street" since 1984, when he was handed the fuzzy red puppet with ping-pong-ball eyes and asked to come up with a voice for him. Clash transformed the character, which had languished as a marginal member of the Muppets family for a number of years, into a major star that rivaled Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."

Among children and adults alike, Elmo was quickly embraced as a frolicsome child with a high-pitched giggle and a tendency to speak of himself in the third person.

"I would love to be totally like Elmo," Clash said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. "He is playful and direct and positive."

Besides "Sesame Street," Elmo has made guest appearances on dozens of TV shows. He starred in the 1999 feature film "Elmo in Grouchland." And he has inspired a vast product line, notably the Tickle Me Elmo doll, which created a sales sensation with its introduction in 1996.

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