HAPPIER TIMES: Elmo with puppeteer and voice actor Kevin Clash
THE VOICE behind beloved Sesame Street puppet Elmo has taken an absence of leave from the children’s programme after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
American puppeteer Kevin Clash, 52, admits to having a relationship with the accuser but only when the accuser was an adult, according to TMZ.
Clash, who has been apart of the children’s program since the 80s, took leave from Sesame Street - which has been running since 1969 - after the show’s lawyers were contacted by a 23-year-old man.
It is alleged that Clash had a sexual relationship with the accuser seven years ago when he was 16-years-old, a claim that Clash denies.
He told TMZ: “I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.”
Sesame Workshop officials told TMZ: “In June of this year, Sesame Workshop received a communication from a young man who alleged that he had a relationship with Kevin Clash beginning when he was 16-years-old.
"This was a personal relationship, unrelated to the workplace. We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action.”
The company continued: "Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."
However, the accuser’s lawyers - Andreozzi and Associates – allegedly claim that Sesame Workshop attempted to "discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters.”
Andreozzi and Associates added: "This approach places a greater value on a puppet than the well being of a young man."
Sesame Workshop denied that claim but did confirm that Elmo will continue to appear on television, adding: “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."