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. Pete

    Kind of puts a new meaning into "Tickle Me Elmo."

    November 12, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. Vince


    November 12, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Stephanie

    Kevin, love you and all you do for children. They love you and need you back. Keep going and come out the successor.
    He's out for money.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kenyetta doyle

    Not elmo

    November 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. US Ministry of Defense

    Next up... Positions where interaction with minors is within the scope of responsibilities, go unfilled for decades. The argument isn't whether this allegation is or isn't true; just sayin'

    November 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jon

    Hope these alegations (not specified) are not true but this is the type of job a predator would love. Leave of absence is appropriate. He will be away from children yet not fired (innocent till proved guilty). Let the investigation run it's course.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jimmy

    and this is why we need to continue to subsidize pbs w/ taxpayer money?

    November 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven B.

      What does this have to do with helping to fund educational television intended for ALL Americans?


      Grow up, please.

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

      Hi Idiot, I'm common sense. Nice to meet you.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • jncsmom

      Ridiculous comment. One has *nothing* to do with the other. Just ridiculous.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Toppie

    Due to Obamas policies this boy has been abused and will now suffer the rest of his life. Once again the Liberal Agenda has taken its toll on another innocent boy.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven B.


      November 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nash the Slash

      This has nothing at all to do with Obama's policies. Don't spout such nonsense.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Oh, stop your trolling.
      The POTUS has nothing to do with this; if true, it started when *your* boy was in office.
      Stop being a bloody partisan hysteric!

      November 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Old Army

      What are you talking about, they are saying that this happened when the person was 16 and he is 23 now.That means that the allegations are 7 years old, Bush jr. was the president then and not Obama. To try to pin this on the current president like that is obsured.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • RapidOne

      Also reported.

      Toppie = worthless tool

      Leave the country already so the rest of us have a chance.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobbiLo

      This troll is on a roll, a biscuit and a bun. O.k. troll go back across the bridge – there is no pot-o-gold.

      November 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cate

    Kevin Clash IS Elmo. He is the man who made that puppet such a success. If these allgations are true I'll be very sad for the future of Elmo.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don't Matter

      Don't be silly. He doesn't own Elmo and those who do...well, they'll just have an audition to find his replacement.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      He's just another person out of how many billion and counting...replace and move on...

      People lose their jobs for a lot less...

      November 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Towanda

    So sad – Mr. Clash said relationship was between consenting adults. The other person is 23 years old now. HE (the 23 yr old) says the relationship started when he was 16 – which would have made him underage. However, we don't know how old the 23 year old was when the "inappropriate or consenting – whichever it was" relationship" started. In any event – it's sad. I tend to think $$ is involved too.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. infonomics

    But what about the puppets? OMG, the puppets !

    November 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. CNNuthin

    So the voice of Elmo is a gay black man who may have had relations with a teen? I don't have anything to add, I just wanted to type that.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CNNuthin

    So this is the backup plan to get rid of Sesame Street. Can't cut funding, so use character assassination on one of the most loved characters..

    November 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. smartaz

    See, you should have let Romney take them off the air.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. therealslim

    obamas policies? sesame street is older than 4 years, and if there was a relationship then it started 7 years ago, blame bush by your logic. if you are going to be ignorant at least get the math right.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Come now, you can't really expect someone that ignorant to do math.

      November 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
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