Kevin Clash’s successful career as the puppeteer for the “Sesame Street” character Elmo is in jeopardy after accusations surfaced this week that he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy. The now-23-year-old man recanted the allegations Tuesday.
READ MORE: Allegations against Elmo puppeteer recanted
A statement to HLN from Andreozzi & Associates, P.C., the firm representing the unnamed 23-year-old, reads:
“This office represented the 23 year old man who was the subject of many media reports regarding Kevin Clash. He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship. He will have no further comment on the matter.”
Clash has admitted to having a consensual relationship with the man, but says the relationship happened after the accuser turned 18.
Read more: Voice of Elmo denies relationship with teen
Parenting and branding expert Samantha Ettus says Clash may not be able to fix the damage that’s been done to his brand.
“I think he has done enough damage to his brand that his star won't rise beyond this point because it's a pretty big blemish to have on your record when you're in the parenting space and you're accused of having a relationship with an underage child. I mean, there's pretty much nothing worse. So I don't see how this, how Kevin's career, can resurrect itself at this point.”
Last year, Clash became synonymous with the Elmo brand with the release of the documentary “Being Elmo, A Puppeteer’s Journey.” The film documented Clash’s efforts to entertain children around the world. Ettus says Clash’s situation is unique and shouldn’t be compared to other personality-driven brands like Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong that have faced difficulties because of personal indiscretions.
“When you have someone like Lance Armstrong who [allegedly] lied about the entire thing he's famous for, his entire career's a lie. We will never forgive Lance Armstrong. When you have someone, like Martha Stewart, she got into personal trouble, and because the purported crime had nothing to do with her main talent, it's easy to forgive her. We all love a comeback story, especially when it has nothing to do with the talent being a fraud. As long as the talent is still there, we can be very forgiving. However, when it comes to a kids brand, it's different.” said Ettus. ”Kids brands need to be pristine and they need to remain pristine because you know, as a society we're very forgiving of people brands. However, no one is letting their kids around Pee-wee Herman unsupervised. You know what I mean? He will always have that black mark on his brand.”
Ettus says she is confident that the Elmo brand will continue to be a successful brand.
“What's fortunate for Sesame Street is that the Elmo brand is definitely going to survive. First of all, not only is Sesame Street invested in them, but as parents, we are invested in them. We want Elmo to survive because our kids, the delight on our kids’ faces, is not going to change because the voice behind Elmo go into personal trouble. And so that is something that kids never have to be exposed to. And as parents, we want them to never be exposed to that. So, we're both on the same side -- us and the network. And, it's very easy to replace the voice behind Elmo.”