Photo Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage
Kevin Clash resigned from his three-decade career as a master puppeteer for the Sesame Street Workshop after a public sex scandal -- but he is not without his supporters.
The voice of Elmo, who left his beloved post after two different 20-something men accused him of having inappropriate sexual relationships with them when they were still underaged, is being defended by a former lover who doesn't believe Clash deserves the kind of media treatment he's received since the story broke earlier this month.
Jason Murray, a 29-year-old teacher who dated Clash in 2004, says Clash's preference for younger men is no different than so many Hollywood stars or business tycoons who repeatedly date or marry much younger women.
"Kevin is not a villain," Murray tells E! News. "Yes, he had an affinity for younger men, but what successful [straight] man doesn’t have an affinity for younger women? It's the same thing, gay or not."
Of course, the difference is that the men filing lawsuits against Clash claim their relationships began when they were teenagers, not adults. Clash, however, acknowledged that he's a gay man who had "an adult consensual relationship" with his first accuser.
The other two accusers, one named Cecil Singleton and the other going by John Doe, are claiming they engaged in "sexual activity" with the puppeteer when they were still adolescents.
Murray, who says he was 21 when he met Clash, then 44, at a gay club in New York City, is no longer in contact with the former Sesame Street star but is happy to defend him.
"Does he prey on these guys? In my heart I don't believe that," he says, stressing his opinion that liking younger men in general doesn't make Clash a bad guy.
"I think it's like Hugh Hefner, he dates younger women," he says. "Kevin likes younger guys. I am reading the news and all the negative stuff. I don't see it. He had a good heart."