Sesame Street puppeteer disciplined over allegations of underage relationship
November 13 , 2012
The puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street character Elmo has been disciplined following allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
A 23-year-old man contacted producers in June, claiming he was in a relationship with Kevin Clash, now 52, that began when he was 16.
Producers said on Monday that Clash, who has operated Elmo since the 1980s, had exercised "poor judgement".
However, they added that the man who contacted them had been over the age of consent.
The age of consent in New York, where the show is filmed, is 17.
Clash has not denied the relationship but maintains it happened after the accuser was an adult.
His employers have now given him leave of absence, saying in a statement: "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.”
"Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so,” the statement added.
Clash was the subject of a 2011 documentary titled Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey. He has won several Daytime Emmy awards for his work on Sesame Street.
In 2006, he penned his autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud.