Photo Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage
Here's your upsetting news for the day: Kevin Clash, the man who voices and handles the Elmo puppet for Sesame Street, is taking a leave of absence from the PBS show over allegations that he partook in sexual activity with an underage boy.
Clash has denied to TMZ that the relationship took place when the man in question was underage, but did acknowledge that the two were in a sexual relationship. The claim from the accuser is that Clash had been involved with the man seven years ago when he was only 16.
"I had a relationship with [the accuser]," Clash tells TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."
He adds in another statement to People, "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."
Sesame Workshop claims that the accuser's statement could not be backed up, and has given Clash his leave of absence so that he can defend his name.
"Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined," the company says in a statement.
Sesame adds to TMZ, "Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."
It will be interesting to see how this situation pans out, but regardless, Sesame Workshop expects Elmo to remain unaffected.
"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world," the company states.