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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soundoff (354 Responses)
  1. ericgoestoholland

    I'll be honest, this does not exactly surprise me. A couple weeks ago I heard an episode of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me that featured this man as a guest. During the show, I got the impression that this dude might be kind of creepy. It nearly ruined Elmo for me.

    November 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. johnathan blaze

    16 is legal in lots of states. This is no big deal. HTH

    November 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chris

    Elmo knows where you live!

    November 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mitch

    16 is not an adult, the guy was an idiot.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jowl

    will be interesting if the black/hispanic community will "have his back" and "be in" for him.. maybe he'll get to keep his job after all like Obama

    November 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sashatree

    I've known Kevin for more than 20 yrs. He has more integrity than almost anyone else I know! He is not stupid and would NEVER do anything illegal, that's for sure. And, knowing his "accuser", all I can say it that he's a liar and he's looking for money from Kevin. As you can see, Kevin has been found to be innocent of any wrong doing so far, and I hope that any/all further investigations reveal the truth - which is that this lowlife accuser is looking for a cash settlement! This is nothing less than BLACKMAIL BASED ON NASTY LIES!!

    November 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James PDX

    The requirement that you learn to count accurately?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rae Ann Pointer

    Kevin Clash should just come out and say he is gay so that this will all go away. Better yet, say that Elmo is gay and then the media will hail him as a hero.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marci

      He did admit to being gay. First sentence of the article.

      November 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. josh rogen

    your PBS dollars at work.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tekstep1

      Petreaus- your defense dollars at work.

      November 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nylawyer

    The majority of comments arguing that a 16-year-old is not an adult are based on the premise that the relationship actually began when the accuser was in fact sixteen. Nothing in the article substantiates that assertion. Couldn't it be that Clash is truthful regarding the adulthood of his accuser when the relationship began and that the alleged lie consists of the accuser saying they got involved much earlier? Why do people assume facts not clearly stated? It saddens me so that reading comprehension in this country is at such an all time low.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      ....and a relationship between an 18 yr old and a 50 year old male who works with children is okay? I don't care what anyone says the fact that he's 50+ years old, works with children and chooses to have a relationship with somone who was at best 18 yrs old and at worst when he was a minor is major league disturbing.

      November 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yes. Mike. It is legal. You may not like it. But it is legal.

      November 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Why would a relationship between a 50 year old and an 18 year old be unacceptable? 18 years old is considered an adult. At what point do you consider someone an adult? I think if you can make the decision to die in a war why can you not decide who you choose to have a relationship with?

      November 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • avgjohn

      Well Mike, looks like the NAMBLA folks are out in full force defending one of their own. There are a lot more pedophiles out there than people realize.

      November 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Myto Senseworth

    What do they do at the Sesame Street Workshop? Is Elmo the gay voice of kids everywhere? To work in the TV/movie, industry is being gay a plus?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Myto Senseworth

    Were the first two voices of Elmo gay men?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladylillie62

      Does it matter?

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

    What?! Where is the outrage against the network for attempting to hide his actions? If the man claims it started at 16 then this guy should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And fair is fair, civil action against the network for trying to downplay his actions should be taken.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • lalunaunita

      If the accuser can provide any evidence to back up his claim that the relationship started when he was 16, then it will become a criminal case. I'm sure they are questioning him seriously about that.

      If it started when he was 18, as Clash claims, then the relationship was legal. The network isn't trying to downplay anything; they are standing by their employee's explanation as the truth – after repeatedly interviewing the parties involved. If they aren't convinced that the accuser is telling the truth, why should they have any obligation to denounce Clash? They aren't the police.

      November 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Myto Senseworth

    Now the Republicans will want to fire Elmo too.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe H

      The whole "fire Bigbird" thing was just the media latching on to the comment made by David Axelrod, Obama's strategist, at a press confrence. The media would rather not deal with the boring real issue, Romney wanting to cut funding for PBS.

      November 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Uh, no, it is what Romney stated at the first debate.
      It spun out of control, but Romney *did* say it.
      I freaking watched him say it, along with firing Jim Leher. (Sp?)

      November 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Splovengates


    November 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • TR

      Hate to say it but nobody cares if YOU are not pleased.

      You have not right to judge only God does.

      November 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Splovengates

      You better care! God cares! Aint nobody judging. You dont know what youre talking about. It is what it is. God will judge when He reins down fire from heaven on the gay community and others because of their sins. Jesus will save us FROM our sins, not IN our sins. Got that? GET GOD!

      November 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
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