Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind “Sesame Street’s” Elmo, has resigned after 28 years as the voice behind one of the series’ most popular and beloved characters, the New York Times reports.
Clash became embroiled in a topsy-turvy sex scandal that became public last week, in which an aspiring actor/ model Sheldon Stephens claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Clash when he was just 16 years old.
Sesame Workshop said it had investigated the underage sex claims over the summer and found them to be unsubstantiated, but Clash was disciplined for sending explicit e-mails to Stephens over his company account.
Stephens initially recanted his claim last week, saying that he had an “adult consensual relationship” with Clash that began after he turned 18.
Stephens reportedly settled for $125,000 in return for recanting his underage sex claim. But this week, Stephens allegedly wanted to take back the recantation and stand by his original allegation.
TMZ reported Monday morning that a second accuser, Cecil Singleton, filed a $5 million lawsuit against Clash that alleges the two had a sexual relationship when Singleton was just 15.
The lawsuit claims that “[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys.” Singleton alleges that although the relationship occurred two decades ago, “he did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash’s sexual acts and conduct until 2012.”
Sesame Workshop said in a statement Monday shortly after the new allegations were made public:
“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization.”
The statement continued: “Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”
The Times reports that the production of “Sesame Street” was not affected amid the scandal, and that Clash has helped direct producers to a new voice of Elmo.