I still don’t know what to think or who to believe in this Sesame Street Awfulness. Yesterday, we discussed how Kevin Clash – the voice of Elmo and one of the most valuable and beloved puppeteers in the world – has been accused of having a relationship with a 16-year-old boy. The accuser is now 23, and he claims that he and Kevin began a seven-year relationship when he was 16. TMZ reported yesterday that Sesame Street did a “thorough investigation” into the guy’s claims and they don’t think there’s anything there, but they did allow Kevin Clash to take a leave of absence while Clash fought against these charges. And by “charges” I don’t even know what we’re talking about. I don’t think the police are involved, I think this might just be a civil issue right now…? But it could possibly become a criminal investigation, I suppose.
So, what’s new? Clash has issued a statement to media outlets and there seems to be some push-back from Team Clash:
The puppeteer who performs as the Sesame Street character Elmo has been granted a leave of absence from his job amid allegations he had an improper relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
Kevin Clash denies the allegations first reported by TMZ but says that he had a consensual relationship with a man, who is now 23, that occurred when the accuser 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,” Clash, 52, tells PEOPLE in a statement via his personal rep.
“I had a relationship with the accuser,” his statement continues. “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.”
Sesame Workshop officials said in a statement released to PEOPLE that they have investigated the claims and found that the underage sex allegations could not be substantiated.
“Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined,” the company said in a statement.
Sesame Workshop officials told PEOPLE that the character Elmo would survive despite the scandal, saying, “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.”
I guess Clash is saying that although he’s known his accuser since the guy was 16, they only developed a romantic and sexual relationship once the kid came of age. Which still bugs me even if it’s the truth. Clash is 52 years old! Go back five years – when his accuser was 18 years old – and Clash was still 47 years old. I’m sorry, but even though that’s legal, it’s still creepy and gross.
Mostly I’m just bothered by all of the kids who will be negatively affected by this – in the Sesame Street world, Kevin Clash was and is a rock star. Will kids and their parents throw away their Elmo dolls and Elmo products because of this? Ugh.
Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet and WENN.