It's not a sunny day on "Sesame Street," as the show revealed Monday that the puppeteer behind Elmo has been accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage boy.As readers of Michael Davis' Street Gang will be quick to point out, there has been a fair amount of drama behind the scenes of Sesame Street during the show's 43-year run...but nothing even remotely comparable to an alleged sex scandal. As the man responsible for bringing the most popular (and most divisive) Muppet to life, Kevin Clash was the focus of the documentary Being Elmo -- a film that managed to even warm the hearts of the character's most vocal critics. Even though he denies the allegations against him, Clash could be tried in the court of public opinion regardless. Although Sesame Workshop has already announced that the Elmo character will continue to be featured on Sesame Street during Clash's absence, it's hard to imagine that the show won't receive some serious blowback from this as well.
"In June of this year, Sesame Workshop received a communication from a then 23-year-old man who alleged that he had a relationship beginning when he was 16 years old with Kevin Clash," reps for the show said in a statement.
Clash, 52, who has been Elmo's Muppeteer since 1984, adamantly maintains the accusation is false, but the show was forced to investigate.
Says Clash, according to 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."
"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in the statement. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."
While the show's probe was unable to find proof that Clash had engaged in a relationship with the accuser while he was a minor, it did find evidence that the man behind one of the most beloved children's television characters had engaged in inappropriate behavior against company standards.
"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 and he was disciplined," Sesame Workshop said.
In light of the incident, Clash will be moving away from Sesame Street for the foreseeable future.
"Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation," the Workshop noted. "We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."
UPDATE: Clash's accuser recants his allegations. Hopefully Kevin Clash can return to Sesame Street and get back to entertaining ASAP.