A puppeteer known as the voice of Elmo was granted a leave of absence from "Sesame Street" to “protect his reputation” after adamantly denying allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy.
In June, Sesame Street Workshop officials say they were contacted by a 23-year-old man who claimed he began a relationship with 52-year-old Kevin Clash when he was 16 years old.
“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” the workshop said in a statement posted on its website Monday. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation,” workshop officials said.
A “thorough investigation” conducted by the workshop found the allegations to be “unsubstantiated,” according to the statement. “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,” the statement read.
Clash -- who insists that the allegation is false and defamatory -- was granted a leave of absence in order to “protect his reputation,” the workshop said in the statement.
"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter,” Kevin Clash's representative said in a statement to HLN on his behalf. “I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
Andreozzi & Associates, P.C. is reportedly representing the 23-year-old accuser, however, HLN was unable to reach them for a comment.
Sesame Street officials ended the statement by saying, “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.”