Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from “Sesame Street” in the wake of an allegation that he had sex with an underage youth.
In its statement Tuesday, Sesame Workshop said “the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want,” leading Clash to conclude “that he can no longer be effective in his job.”
In a statement of his own, Clash said “personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer.”
As the announcement was made, a lawsuit was being filed in federal court in New York charging Clash with sexual abuse of a second youth. The lawsuit alleges that Cecil Singleton, then 15 and now an adult, was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $5 million.
Clash, who had been on “Sesame Street” for 28 years, created the high-pitched voice and child-like persona for Elmo, a furry, red Muppet that became one of the most popular characters on the show and one of the company’s most lucrative properties.
Clash’s exit followed a tumultuous week that began Nov. 12 with a statement from the company that Clash had requested a leave of absence after the charge by a man in his early 20s that he had had a relationship with Clash when he was 16.
Clash denied the charge from that man, who has not been publicly identified. The 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter has acknowledged that he is gay.
An investigation by Sesame Workshop found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.
The next day Clash’s accuser recanted his charge, describing his sexual relationship with Clash as adult and consensual.