Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has found himself in a bit of a pickle. The Sesame Street puppeteer has been accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy in the past. The accuser, now 23-years-old, laid the charges on Clash in June 2012. While Clash acknowledges the relationship, he says it was carried on after the accuser was legally an adult.
“I had a relationship with the accuser,” Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash said in a statement. “It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than it was.”
Sesame Workshop quickly addressed the issue with their Elmo puppeteer, meeting with both the accuser and Clash. The Workshop said that the charge of underage relations was unsubstantiated, but that Clash has been disciplined for inappropriate Internet usage.
According to TMZ, the man behind the Elmo voice reportedly used his Sesame Street email account to contact his accuser back in 2010. Sent after the accuser turned 18, the email includes Clash apologizing for “talking about sex” and later saying “I love you and I will never hurt you.” Clash also writes in the email that he was going to have his assistant book a flight for the accuser to visit New York to talk in person.
The 52-year-old Clash was open about being gay, though saying it was a personal matter, and stated that he will be taking a leave of absence to deal with the allegations.
Kevin Clash has been with Sesame Street since 1984, making Elmo one of the main faces of the show. He has won multiple Emmy’s for his role as the Elmo puppeteer, and his life as a puppeteer has been chronicled in the recent documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.
It is uncertain how long Clash’s leave of absence will be.