Kevin Clash, the longtime voice and puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Elmo character, has resigned in the aftermath of allegations — which he adamantly denies — that he had a sexual relationship with an underage man, according to USA Today, which also reports new allegations by a second accuser. The initial claim by a Pennsylvania man — now an adult — was recanted last week but then reasserted yesterday
According to TMZ, the new accuser says that Clash initiated their relationship 20 years ago, when the man was 15, and is suing the puppeteer for $5 million. In a statement released on Tuesday, Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street, called the controversy "a distraction" and called it "a sad day" for the classic children's program. Indeed.
The coverage was too much for Sesame, which did not address the latest allegations in its statement.
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," the company said. "Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street."
While the events threaten to tarnish the image of the children's media company — and disrupt toy sales, analysts say — production of the preschool series has continued, and Elmo will be played by understudies trained by Clash.
Read more at USA Today.