*He’s not just the voice of Elmo.
Kevin Clash, who began making puppets at the age of 10 in his Baltimore hometown, is “Sesame Street’s” senior puppet coordinator and puppet captain, as well as the show’s senior creative consultant.
Last year, he won his seventh Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series, and he’s also earned 10 additional Emmy Awards for his work as co-executive producer for outstanding preschool children series.
Needless to say, his sudden and indefinite leave of absence in the wake of sexual abuse charges will impact more than just the little ones who may soon question the whereabouts of their favorite cuddly red creature, or why he suddenly has a different voice.
As previously reported, Clash is denying allegations from a 23-year-old man who claims he was underage (16-years-old) when he and Clash had sexual encounters. Clash reportedly insists the person was 18 at the time.
“I had a relationship with the accuser,” Clash said in a statement of his own. “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.”
Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, added, “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.
“I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation,” he said, but neither Clash nor producer Sesame Workshop indicated how long his absence might be.
In New York, sex with a person under 17 is a felony if the perpetrator is 21 or older. It was unclear where the relationship took place, and at press time, there was no record of a criminal charge filed against Clash in the state.
Sesame Workshop said it became aware of the allegations against Clash in June, according to the Washington Post. “We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” the company stated Monday. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation.”
The organization, which described their relationship as “unrelated to the workplace,” conducted its own investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be “unsubstantiated.” But it said Clash exercised “poor judgment” and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. No further details were given.
FLASHBACK AUDIO: During interviews for the Jan. release of his PBS Independent Lens documentary “Being Elmo,” Clash explained seeing famous men and women instantly revert back to childhood while visiting the set of “Sesame Street.”