Forget a nightmare on Elm Street, there’s a real saga on “Sesame Street!”
Kevin Clash — the puppeteer and voice actor behind the character Elmo — has taken a leave of absence from “Sesame Street” in the wake of allegations that he had a sexual relationship with 16-year-old teenager.
The accuser claims that he and Clash had a sexual relationship seven years ago when he was 16 and the puppeteer was 45.
But the now 52-year-old talent adamantly denies the allegations that he had sex with the underage accuser, calling the claims “false and defamatory.” He does acknowledge he and the accuser had a relationship, but it was after the said accuser was an adult.
“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,” Clash told TMZ.
Sesame Workshop lawyers recently met with the accuser to hear his claims after receiving word of his allegations.
“In June of this year, Sesame Workshop received a communication from a young man who alleged that he had a relationship with Kevin Clash beginning when he was 16-years-old. This was a personal relationship, unrelated to the workplace. We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action.”
After two meetings and a number of other communications with Sesame Workshop attorneys, the accuser supposedly felt the lawyers were “trying to muzzle him” and he hired Andreozzi and Associates, the firm that represented one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case.
According to TMZ, on August 15 attorney Andreozzi sent a letter to Sesame Workshop accusing the company of trying to “discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters.” It also claimed “this approach places a greater value on a puppet than the well being of a young man.”
Sesame Workshop officials told TMZ that they conducted a thorough investigation and determined the allegation of underage sex was unsubstantiated. They also declare that they were never trying to silence the accuser, instead were requesting evidence from him to support his claim, but he never produced it.
Additionally, Sesame Workshop revealed that they are suspicious because the accuser has an email—which TMZ has seen—that was allegedly sent to him by Clash, acknowledging they had the affair when he was 16. Sesame said the accuser never mentioned the incriminating email existed before and they believe it’s fraudulent.
There were other emails between Clash and his accuser, although they do not suggest there was any underage sex. The Baltimore-bred puppeteer was disciplined by Sesame Workshop for inappropriate use of company email.
“Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so,” said Sesame Workshop.
The character of Elmo will not be on hiatus during Clash’s leave of 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,” expressed Sesame Workshop.
Clash has won 23 Daytime Emmy Awards for his work as Elmo. In 2011, Clash starred in the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” which made it critically acclaimed debut at the Sundance Film Festival.