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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Filed under: TV • U.S.
soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. Joe bob

    Even if the guys is innocent he is now labeled

    November 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jerome Horowitz

      I had a friend who was falsely accused by an angry ex-wife.
      The accusation was all it took.
      There was no evidence AT ALL, but he was scarred forever.
      I say reserve judgement on these matters until you know as much as you can.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      I meant the collective "you", not Joe Bob personally.......

      November 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don

    and now they are using CNN comments and going under the assumed name "Vera".

    November 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Grumpymedic

    No it's not. That is, if you believe most people to be about 4-5" tall.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jncsmom

    Another ignorant comment. You must be the only person left who apparently didn't already know Clash is black. Idiotic.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sinfully Yours

    Tickle ME, Elmo!!!

    November 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Miyafuji

    16 may not be a legal adult here, but 16 isn't a kid anymore, that's for sure.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guest

      Kevin is still a creeper for doing it to a high school kid more than 20 years younger than him. I would feel the same even if this guy were hetero, & the teen was a girl. Tickle me Elmo..... Right!

      November 13, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. BOMBO ©

    I'm shocked. I might have expected this behavior from Oscar or the Count, but not Elmo.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jerome Horowitz

      Why do you think they call him "Big Bird"?

      November 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BuddhaCatMac

    you go Don! I completely agree with you :)

    November 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Emanon

    This sounds like a load of BS. It sounds like this 23 year old is looking for $$$. The part I find interesting in this article is "Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined,". What's funny about this comment is it can mean ANYTHING. Company policy could mean not using the internet for Facebook or purchasing personal items on sites like Amazon....etc. Gotta love CNN.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. CTed

    There have been ,kings of coutnries younger than 16. In the old west 16 was a man, problably married, likely starting to have kids.....

    So we've gotten less mature and much stupider since then I guess. 16 year olds are not little kids. Of course the law is the law so that doesn't matter in this case but some people on this board infantalizing 16 yr olds is why they act so immature – becuase we treat them like the should and excuse it when they do. 16 years are capable making decisions.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Anders Behring Breivik (King of the Island)

    By just looking at him I know he is guilty!

    November 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BobbiLo

      By reading your biased comment I can just tell you're very uneducated. What about him makes you know that he is guilty? Oh wait...

      November 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GAW

    $10 says Vera is a troll.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nita

    Wow......a pedophile that is envolved with children on a daily basis......that's a shocker.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. GAW

    This article is Troll Bait.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity-Just Stick It In"

    CNN: "underage conduct with teen"? Isn't that a trite redundant? Did you mean "underage misconduct"? Sounds like CNN condones this.

    November 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      The words "trite" and "redundant" do not mean what you seem to think they mean.

      November 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
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