The puppeteer behind Elmo is now on a leave of absence after rumors surfaced that Kevin Clash was involved in a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
The allegations first surfaced in June when the boy, who is now 23-years-old, came forward and confessed that he had been involved with the 52-year-old Elmo puppeteer.
Needless to say Clash denied the allegations, but Sesame Workshop wasn’t willing to risk having him around if the rumors turned out to be true.
“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement Monday. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation.”
Sesame Workshop also claimed that the actions they took were not personal, and in a way had little to do with the actual relationship and more with the codes and rules that had to have been violated in order for the relationship to happen in the first place.
The company has stated that the former Elmo puppeteer showed “poor judgment” and didn’t follow proper company policy pertaining to use of the Internet. They claim that on these grounds alone, Clash was offered a leave of absence but there is plenty of reason to believe that the popular child’s show didn’t want their brand to be associated with grown men trying to have inappropriate relationships with the small children who are probably tuning in to watch the show.
The Elmo voice actor still stayed true to his story that the accusations are simply untrue, although he did admit to having a relationship with the young man.
“I had a relationship with (the accuser),” he admitted to TMZ. “It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.”
Clash still hasn’t specified how old the accuser was at the time of the relationship, but just continues to refer to both of them as “consenting adults.”
Elmo may never have the same voice again considering how seriously the charges are that could be pinned on Kevin. In New York, it is considered a felony to have sex with a minor under the age of 17 if the perpetrator is 21 or older.
Although the person behind Elmo may not be the same, Sesame Workshop has been sure to promise fans that Elmo will still be a big part of the show.
“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,” the company said in the same statement.
The show is already looking for puppeteers to take on the task of voicing the high pitched, giggling red monster that has become one of the primary faces of Sesame Street.
Although Sesame Workshop is hopeful to find a replacement, it will certainly be quite a shock to Sesame Street fans who have heard the same voice come from their furry red friend for almost 30 years.