Elmo puppeteer resigns amid new underage sex allegations
Sesame Street lost one of its mainstays Tuesday, as the voice and puppeteer of Elmo resigned amid new allegations that he had sex with an underage boy.
Kevin Clash, 52, who had voiced Elmo since the 1980s, was hit with a $5 million lawsuit from Cecil Singleton Tuesday claiming that the two met in 1993 in a gay chat room when Singleton was 15, then had a sexual relationship.
The suit came just a week after another man, Sheldon Stephens, recanted his claims that Clash had sex with him when he was 16 years old. He then reversed his position yet again to say it did happen when he was underage.
Clash said he was leaving Sesame Workshop, the company behind the television show, after nearly 30 years with a very heavy heart.
"I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," he said in a statement issued by his publicist, Risa B. Heller.
"I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately," he added.
Sesame Workshop first became aware of Stephens' initial allegations this past summer, but that after an investigations it found the claims to be unfounded. On Tuesday, the company said it was a sad day for "Sesame Street," which premiered in 1969.
"Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street," the company said in a statement.