Voice of Elmo on leave after denying 'underage conduct' with teen
Puppeteer Kevin Clash with the iconic Elmo at the Kennedy Center Honors in December 2011
November 12th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Voice of Elmo on leave after denying 'underage conduct' with teen

[Update 1:55 p.m.] Kevin Clash has issued a statement saying,"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 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."

[Posted 12:23 p.m.] The puppeteer who voices Elmo - one of the most adored children's characters in the world -  is taking time off from Sesame Street after denying he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy.

Sesame Street Workshop says it found the allegation against Kevin Clash "unsubstantiated," and granted him leave as he takes "actions to protect his reputation."

In June, the workshop heard from a 23-year-old man who claimed that he had "a relationship" with Clash beginning when he was 16 years old, the workshop said in a written statement.

The statement did not use the word "sexual."

"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," the Sesame Street Workshop statement said.

"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.

"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."

A representative for Clash had no immediate comment Monday.  TMZ reported that Clash said his relationship with the accuser "was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."

A law firm reported to be representing the accuser had no immediate comment.

Last year, Clash spoke to CNN about the magic of Elmo, a "mirror image" for kids.

Clash, 52, is widely beloved as the high-pitched voice of the iconic furry red Elmo, whom he's been playing since 1984 - and won Emmy Awards along the way.

He was the third Muppeteer to take on the role.

Clash is also Sesame Street's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain, the Sesame Street Workshop says on its website.

A documentary, Being Elmo, focused on his story.

Clash also once spoke with NYC Dads, an initiative of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about how he worked to spend time with his daughter who lives with his ex-wife outside of Baltimore.

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soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. What?

    "....our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined,"

    November 13, 2012 at 8:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valkyrie

      He probably sent personal emails or used a social networking site.

      November 13, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. JR

    Elmo, Big Bird...you can't trust these guys.

    November 13, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. driveby poster

    I always suspected that Bert and Ernie were the Fabulous ones. I never suspected Elmo.

    November 13, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. CosmicC

    Let's get real – the only impact this can possibly have on children is that they find out that there is a human behind Elmo.

    November 13, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dave

    Want justice go to police
    want $ go to lawyer

    November 13, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • pc

      Want justice , go to a lawyer, want to be jerked around, go to the cops...

      November 13, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Antiquity

      How cute, you think cops are there to help you. Just google Warren V. District of Columbia and your quaint little world will come crashing down around you.

      November 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • knucklecheese

      That may be true in Mayberry, but not anywhere else kid.

      November 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red

      People are extremely paranoid, aren't they Dave?

      November 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • chiniquy

      The have reason to be paranoid Red, when it comes to dealing with the police in America.

      November 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. its broken

    You don't reckon Elmo talked him into doing it do you? I don't believe he would, but you never know

    November 13, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. business noneofyours

    I live in the state of Massachusetts, and consenting age is legally 16 years old here. Doesn't matter whether it's appropriate or not, it's not against the law for an older man to have a relationship with a 16-year-old.

    November 13, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • C. E.

      It depends on the state. But can an employer use PR reasons to fire an employee for that?

      November 13, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • knucklecheese

      Not legally, but they have ways of getting around that. I'd be willing to bet there's some sort of language in his contract that can be used against him.

      November 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • no one

      @C.E. – I imagine the employer could fire him for a legal relationship. Seeing as this is a company that is built around children, they likely have a clause regarding relationships or behavior with those children, similar to schools. There are several cases of teachers being fired for having relationships with 18 year students. Legally, the relationships were allowed, but teacher/student relationships were forbidden.

      November 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. aktap

    Elmo! Baby, say it ain't so?

    November 13, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. viknat

    Sounds like another Penn state did Big Bird know about this?

    November 13, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Scottish Mama

    He admitted he had a adult relationship with the accuser, I think if they have internet contact, they have what the relationship really was.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. lvarrow

    Let us get the whole story before all the 3dchatter and idle speculation. This man has been openly gay for a long time and it seems like a ploy to smear him in the media. Put love first and then discuss.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Scottish Mama

    La, la, la, la Elmos world.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Cheri

    It seem like the accuser is upset about something and now want to make something out of nothing. Keep it to yourself and don't bring the public in your love affair because something went wrong. I say leave Clash along and let him do his job.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. no nothing

    How old is Elmo?

    November 13, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cheri

    I agree with Robert. There is something so not right about the situation.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
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