Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who has provided the voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street” for the better part of the last three decades, has resigned amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy.
In a statement released Tuesday, Sesame Workshop announced that Clash would not be returning to his job with the long-running children's program, calling it “a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’ ”
“None of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’ ”
The ordeal began this June when a young man, now 23, told Sesame Workshop that Clash had pursued a sexual relationship with him that the man said started when he was just 16. In a Nov. 12 statement, the company said that it had conducted a “thorough investigation” into the matter, including two meetings with the accuser, and found his claims regarding underage sexual contact to be “unsubstantiated.”
However, Sesame Workshop’s internal investigation “did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined,” and the company said Clash was placed on leave from the show.
Only a day after the allegations against Clash surfaced, the accuser recanted his charges via a statement from law firm Andreozzi & Associates. “He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship. He will have no further comment on the matter,” it read.
But from there, the saga grew even stranger. On Monday, the gossip website TMZ reported that the accuser claimed he was pressured to retract the charges against Clash.
"Sesame Street" has endured numerous high-profile cast changes over the years -- most notably after the 1990 death of Jim Henson -- but whether the show can rid itself of the taint of scandal remains to be seen.