Voice of Elmo Accused of Having Relationship With Underage Boy, Denies Allegations
The puppeteer and voice of one of "Sesame Street's" most beloved monsters is caught up in a sex scandal and has been accused of having relations with an underage boy, TMZ reports.
Kevin Clash, 52, who has brought Elmo to life for the past 28 years, has taken a leave of absence from "Sesame Street" after allegations rose that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy. Cash, however, denies the accusations.
It's been reported that officials from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group that produces the PBS children's show, found out about the incident by the alleged victim, who is now 23, in June. The nonprofit said it took the allegation "very seriously" and took "immediate action." The organization interviewed Clash and the young man but found the claims to be "unsubstantiated."
But according to the investigation, Clash and the accuser were involved in a "personal relationship unrelated to the workplace" and the voice actor used "poor judgment" with company email and was disciplined accordingly.
TMZ notes that Clash sent an email to the 23 year old, who has not been identified, and wrote, "I'm sorry that I keep talking about sex with you, it's driving me insane."
"I want you to know that I love you and I will never hurt you," Clash allegedly wrote. "I'm here to protect you and make sure your dreams come true. I'll have my assistant book a ticket for you to come to NY and we can talk about this in person."
The Muppeteer soon released a statement that confirmed he is gay and was involved in a relationship with the accuser but only when he was of legal age.
"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," he in a statement to ABC News. "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," he added.
Clash, who is divorced and has a daughter, voiced Elmo since 1984 and received his 21st Emmy for "best performer in a children's series" as Elmo. A 2011 documentary was also based on the actor, which was critically acclaimed. It currently has 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator website and the New York Post wrote, "One of the chief pleasures of Sundance is wandering into a movie that you think couldn't possibly amount to anything much and being knocked out by it. The documentary 'Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey,' which should make Kevin Clash a household name, is an inspiring and joyous celebration of art, skill, determination and making kids happy.
"Clash is a remarkable talent, a true master of his field, and the importance of what he does is considerable. Sick children apparently have asked to meet Elmo as their dying wish. If you can watch one such encounter without crying, you're a stronger man than I. Clash, pro that he is, doesn't cry. Because where there is Elmo, there must be happiness."
Sesame Workshop released a statement about the controversy and said, "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."