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Voice of Elmo denies underage sex claim

THE puppeteer who performs as Elmo on Sesame Street is taking a leave of absence from the popular children's show in the wake of allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

Sesame Workshop said 52-year-old Kevin Clash denies the charges, which were first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.

"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."

The organisation said its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding internet usage. It offered no details.

TMZ, who reported the claims, said that Mr Clash had admitted he had a relationship with the man, but only after the accuser was an adult.

"I had a relationship with (the accuser)," Clash told TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults, and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."



Reputation

At his request, Clash has been granted a leave of absence in order to "protect his reputation", Sesame Workshop said.

"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," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.

Sesame Street is currently in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show.

Clash has been a Sesame Street puppeteer since 1984, when he was handed the fuzzy red puppet named Elmo and asked to come up with a voice for him.

Clash transformed the character, which had been a marginal member of the Muppets troupe for a number of years, into a major star rivaling Big Bird as the face of Sesame Street.

hnews@herald.ie


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