Nobody wants to hear that one of the puppeteers from Sesame Street has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor - least of all, Kevin Clash, the man behind the beloved character Elmo. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case. The 52-year-old is denying the allegations, but Sesame Street has put him on a leave of absence from the show.
According to TMZ, Clash has taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street following allegations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy. The accuser is now 23 years old and claims that his relationship with Clash began seven years ago. At the time, Clash was 45 and the accuser was 16. From what TMZ reports, Clash admits to having a relationship with the man but claims it started after the accuser was an adult.
It sounds like Sesame Workshop is handling this situation with care, stating:
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.
"Immediate action" apparently included meeting with the accuser twice and having "a number of other communications with him." It also sounds like Sesame Workshop was seeking evidence supporting the accuster's claim after he came forward, but he didn't produce it. From what's being reported, the leave of absence is a response on Sesame Street's part to some emails Clash exchanged with the accuser, none of which suggest that there was underage sex happening, but qualify as "inappropriate use of company email." A harsh sentence for sending some personal emails, but if action needed to be taken, it seems like this was a way to do it without outright siding with the accuser.
It's not difficult to want to believe that this is a mistake, a misunderstanding or an exaggeration, especially for those of us who are fans of Elmo, the loving character Clash has made famous during his time at Sesame Street. There was even a documentary made that focuses on Clash's work puppeteering the adorable, furry red monster. With that said, if there's any truth to this person's claims, and a law has been broken, it needs to be investigated and brought to light. Hopefully the situation will be sorted out one way or the other.
As for Elmo, Sesame Workshop says he's "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." So it seems fans of the character should still expect to see him around.