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. CA Liberal

    Could be a political agenda. Remember during the debates Mittens dumped on Big bird-aka Sesame Street- pretty hard.

    November 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. icky

    Y Elmo

    November 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. x

    Come on, it was the puppet.

    November 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. nokat

    a little Big Bird told

    see, Romney knew best

    November 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bored already

    Too soon for a "Tickle Me Elmo" joke?

    November 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny American

      There have already been many. Probably more than 50 so far...

      November 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Golden Girl

    I'm pretty sure Sandusky considered his relationships consensual as well, as does any adult in a relationship with a teenager. Very sick.

    November 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • IEK

      He's not saying it was just consensual. He said it was a consensual relationship, between *adults*. As in, the accuser was an adult at the time they were involved.

      November 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. oh elmo

    So we should all be expecting elmo to have a change in voice pretty soon...........who wants to like a toy that "like's" little boys. Nobody, that's who.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CommonSensed

    Fact: Newt claimed his affairs were because he was overcome with patriotism and should be forgiven.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bluemalak

    Sounds to me like someone is making up part of the actual story of a relationship later in life to a celebrity to get some attention. I don't believe he was not an adult when the two had a relationship.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Counterpoint

    Another example of the failed policies of the Obama administration.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • CP in FL

      Congratulations on the dumbest comment of the day.

      November 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      It's Obama's fault! It's Obama's fault! It's Obama's fault! What?

      November 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Moon

    I don't pay much attention to stories where I know someone is spitefully trying to ruin someone else's life. That's obviously what this 23 year old is doing. Ignore and move on.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. caleb

    Oh boy, I'll never here "Elmo loves you." the same way again/\.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Charlie

    Elmo is about love and kiss. I think this guy did a little too much loving and kissing.

    November 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DaveG1970

    Clash of the Tighteens..ah, thank you!

    November 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mav

    Elmo's on the Down Low...

    November 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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