Elmo Voice Actor Takes 'Sesame Street' Leave After Allegations of Sex With Underage BoyMike Sampson |
Today is not a sunny day on Sesame Street. Kevin Clash, the voice actor and puppeteer behind Elmo, the show's most popular character, has taken an indefinite leave of absence following allegations the he had sexual relations with an underage boy.
According to TMZ, a now 23-year-old man has come forward to say he had a sexual relationship with Clash beginning when he was 16 years old. Clash admits the relationship took place but says it only became sexual after the boy turned 17.
Said Clash in a statement to TMZ:
I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.
The accuser met with Sesame Workshop officials earlier this year to divulge the relationship. Although Sesame claims they took "immediate action," the accuser felt as if they were trying to silence him, so he found a lawyer (not coincidentally the same firm who handled some of Jerry Sandusky's victims).
Sesame Workshop says that they launched a full investigation and found the accusations to be unsubstantiated (though they did discipline Clash for inappropriate use of his work e-mail for e-mails he had sent to the accuser). They add that they believe the accuser's prime piece of evidence - an e-mail from Clash allegedly acknowledging the boy was under 17 - is fraudulence and that the case is without merit.
So what is the accuser looking to gain? And why did Clash take a leave of absence if he's innocent?
It's unclear but for what it's worth, Elmo will go on and will be portrayed by a different actor in Clash's absence. "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," says the Sesame Workshop in a statement.