Kevin Clash, best known as the man behind Sesame Street’s Elmo character, resigned from the show this week after allegations arose that he was involved in sexual relationships with two underage men.
On Nov. 12, Clash took a leave of absence from Sesame Workshop, after a 23-year-old man publicly alleged that he had been in a sexual relationship with Clash that began when the accuser was 16, placing him below the sexual age of consent in the state of New York.
Sesame Workshop had initially been presented with the allegation in June, and its investigation found the allegation to be unsubstantiated; however, Clash was disciplined for violating company policy involving Internet usage in the workplace. Clash issued a statement in which he confirmed that he is gay and acknowledged that he had been in a relationship with the accuser; however, he characterized the relationship as being between consenting adults.
On Nov. 13, the accuser’s lawyers, Andreozzi & Associates, released the following statement:
“This office represented a 23-year-old man who was the subject of many media reports regarding Kevin Clash. He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship. He will have no further comment on the matter.”
In response to the news, Clash released a statement through his publicist: “I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further.” Sesame Workshop also released a statement: “We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode.”
Reports suggest the accuser is Sheldon Stephens, a model with a criminal record.
On Nov. 19, the accuser again recanted, returning to his original claim of abuse. He also claimed that Clash had paid him $125,000 to recant the first time, and that he was pressured into accepting the offer.
The next day allegations arose from a second man, Cecil Singleton, who also made accusations of an underage relationship with Clash, and announced he was suing for $5 million.
Clash announced his resignation from Sesame Street after the second accuser’s story broke.
In a statement released through his publicist 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. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”
Jeff Herman, a Miami lawyer representing Singleton, has claimed that two other potential victims have also contacted him regarding Clash, and that he expects further legal action.
Sesame Street released the following statement regarding the issue.
“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. 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.”