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. sayitaintso

    I can deal with most of the bad news these days, but I really hope this news turns out to be a false alarm.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Alicia

    Elmo goes to prison and meets bubba..... that could be a cool mini series. just imagine his feathers flying & stuff.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. Wilma Wonka

    I dont believe this story for one minute but Oh, Lord! Let the puppet jokes begin!

    November 12, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Kevin admits the relationship, but he says it was consenting adults. Some people consider 16 fair game.

      November 13, 2012 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Citizen

    Your tax dollars at work.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Also Citizen

      You do realize that Sesame Street makes millions due to private advertising, right?

      November 12, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Steven B.

      Your ignorance is showing.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      The Sesame Workshop directly received a $1,063,542 federal stimulus grant in 2010 & created a whopping 1.43 jobs with it. Every year they are given part of the federal grant to PBS too. Sorry, Citizen is correct.

      November 13, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. wolfvet

    Even if it was consensual those are not the morals I want in my children's role models.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Sidewinder

      But other puppets would be okay as role models for your kids? How about real humans, like Ghandi, or Lincoln?

      November 12, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • salambiance

      Elmo's morals are separate from Kevin Clash's. I've never heard Elmo advocate child molestation. Only tickling.

      November 12, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Ris R

      So the guy that gives a fake VOICE to Elmo is/will be the role model for your children? Children get their morals from their parents...good or bad...not usually TV characters. But, if it IS from the character, it is the character's actions they will model, not the man voicing him...most kids have no IDEA who the voice of their favorite characters are...I know I didn't growing up.

      November 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      Your children have NO CLUE who Kevin Clash is. What he does or doesn't do in his personal life is not endorsed or even mentioned by Elmo.

      November 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |

    Yeah it is sad...once in this country people beleived in innocent until proven guilty...now it seems people beleive whatever the media tells them or spins.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rascal Rabble

    lol...that's just nasty...

    November 12, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. James Brown

    Little known fact.. he also did the voice of baby sinclair in Dinosaurs

    November 12, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. bobcat (in a hat)©

    According to the headline, it says Kevin was on leave due to allegations of "Underage" conduct. Will someone please explain to me what exactly what underage conduct is ?!
    Geez CNN, you used to take pride in your reporting. Are you column wriers trained in journalism ? And doesn't anyone check the stories before they're posted ?

    November 12, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. MeatWad

    Copiing from someone which I agree too. If a 16 year old commits murder & try as an adult but allegations of a relationship @ that age is crazy. Bet he wants Clash to suffer, $$ & few minutes of Fame. Here some advice – If your 21+ Date someone 21+ not younger.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Whats up with that clash!.. What, Mr.noodles was too good for you?

    November 12, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. FredKelly

    "A teenage boy?" Are you kidding? Earnie is like 42!

    November 12, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Nguoinhaque

      that's why Elmo did not tickle Ernie nor Bert, nor Big Bird...

      November 14, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chuck

    ....and THIS is why you'll never have gay leaders in Boy Scouts....

    November 12, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • AmyS

      Check your facts. Most pedophiles... even those that are male and victimize male children... are not gay. And most gay men... even those that lead and participate in activities with younger people.... are not pedophiles. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. It's ignorant statements like yours that continue to perpetuate fear and hate. Congratulations. YOU are what's wrong with this country.

      November 12, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Reman

      Miss Amy
      What is wrong with this country is we have no more Christian value and I believe every gay is pedophiles anyone that goes outside of the Bible and does what they want is wrong and a sin that is what is wrong with this country people like you supporting it

      November 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • DAT

      Reman, you're the perfect example of why we need to save the country from "Christian values"

      November 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angela

      @Reman, your close-mindedness and bigotry are showing. Please go back to your Bible and read about loving one another and 'he who hath not sinned cast the first stone' before you rant. Thanks.

      November 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian R

      DAT and Angela.....Reman has it right....Christian values are far from perfect but are a guidance in our lives with which to try and follow. I do not believe that any one of us is "damned" to hell for straying from those values, but to keep them into consideration for ourselves and towards others should at least be a moral guide.

      The flip side is to abandon all respect towards constraint and virtue and place instead a greedy position that we each are more important than society as a whole! That is the problem being propagated towards our fast decline in moral and social values.

      November 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      The US came into being to get AWAY from people trying to tell everyone else how to live their life....christians have become the King George type enemy....

      November 13, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Lunos

      Reman, the only thing sinful on here is your grammar.

      November 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sidewinder

    LOL and we have a winner.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. jcarnivalv

    Tickle Me Elmo just took on a whole new meaning

    November 12, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
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