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. Pastor V. Benjamin Jemison

    Talk about a wolf in Elmo clothing. I am going to have my ministry protest Sesame Street. what is done in the dark shall come to light.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • AmyS

      Innocent until proven guilty?

      November 12, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Reman

      AMY S
      Anyone who goes against the Bible is GUILTY in the eyes of GOD and all the world and people like you supporting it GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY

      November 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Reman, based on your own religion, your judgement of another shall send you to hell for all enternity....

      November 13, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. jowl

    wow if only this had come out when BIG BIRD was on everybodys lips

    its weird how all these scandals related to politics are coming out AFTER Obama gets re-elected.. its as if the media had an unwritten embargo on them until after election day.

    Of course, this guy should never be allowed around children again. Whats up with Sesame Street Brass not seeing that using their network to facilitate the contacts between this young boy & Clash is a clear reason for firing?

    November 12, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Bonnie

      Uhhhh...this is NOT a scandal related to politics. So much for your conspiracy theory.

      November 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |


    November 12, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      No, what we're saying is that your ignorant cuss. One person's wrongdoing doesn't destroy all the good work of that programming. Should pull out all our troops from Okinawa because of the crimes of a few of your servicemembers? You have the logic of a middle schooler, but you're not alone and that is why our country is in deep trouble.

      November 12, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |


      November 12, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Reman

    so you are letting us know where Elmo is from

    November 12, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Hollywood

    Whatever happened to innocent before being proven guilty?

    November 12, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Robert

    Has anyone ever heard of the concept “innocent until proven guilty”?

    None of us know the facts of what happened. Can we act like civilized and compassionate human beings while the facts are investigated?

    November 12, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. JEFF

    ELMO'S GAY???

    November 12, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Getter_Robo

    Normally I would say that when something like this comes up, the person in question is most likely guilty. But sixteen? I mean... that's age of consent in plenty of states, it's... I don't know, it just seems kinda weird. If he did have a relationship with him, I don't really think it would've been abusive at that age. Strange? Sure. Maybe a little foolish? Yeah. But at sixteen? I mean, they're not exactly toddling around with eyes wide open at that point. It just seems strange.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lord Toronaga

    But when it's a gun issue.... the NRA is always guilty.... When it's a Man-Boy gay issue .... it's nobody's fault and "patently untrue". Too funny. Liberals are never at fault or have any issues.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      arent you the reverse?

      November 12, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      What are you talking about? In THIS case, there is an accusation and no evidence....when someone accuses and NRA member, there is ALWAYS gun ownership supporting the allegations....the difference is evidence vs no evidence...

      November 13, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. J.C.

    Likely bogus. Sounds like someone angling for some blackmail $$$$.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lord Toronaga

    "Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory..." So there was a "relationship" with this older queen and a much younger male. Seems odd already.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. H

    Say it ain't so!

    November 12, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    So if 16 is not a child as some of you say..then if ANY 16 year-old commits a crime it should NEVER go to juvinile court correct?

    November 12, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hg

    Sounds fishy! I bet Kevin's innocent.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. Will

    Beings back memories of 16 year old Courtney Stodden marrying that 52 year old last year in Nevada.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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