Accuser Recants Allegation Against Elmo Puppeteer
By BRIAN STELTER and ELIZABETH JENSEN
November 13, 2012
The man who accused Kevin Clash, the voice and puppeteer of the “Sesame Street” character Elmo, of an under-age sexual relationship has recanted that claim, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The reversal came a day after the claim was published by the gossip Web site TMZ, threatening Mr. Clash’s reputation and alarming parents and other fans of the beloved children’s television franchise.
Andreozzi & Associates, a law firm that said it represented the anonymous accuser, said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that “he wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.” The statement added, “He will have no further comment on the matter.”
Mr. Clash said through a spokeswoman: “I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further.”
The statements were followed by detectable sighs of relief from those who had been alarmed by seeing the words “under-age sex” in the same sentence as “Elmo” (whose name was trending on Twitter nationwide on Tuesday evening).
“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,” said Sesame Workshop, the organization that produces “Sesame Street.”
The organization did not say when — or even whether — Mr. Clash would return to work at “Sesame Street.” On Sunday, he took a leave of absence when it became clear that TMZ was going to publish an article about the accusation of inappropriate and possibly illegal conduct.
The Web site said on Monday that the accuser, now 24 years old, contacted Sesame Workshop last summer and claimed that, beginning at age 16, he had a sexual relationship with Mr. Clash. “Voice of Elmo Denies Sex With Under-Age Boy,” the site’s headline read. Mr. Clash, now 52 years old, responded by saying that the relationship “was between two consenting adults” — something that the accuser affirmed on Tuesday afternoon. The accuser’s law firm did not respond to follow-up questions.
Mr. Clash has played Elmo on “Sesame Street” for decades. He was profiled in a documentary last year, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” When his accuser first contacted Sesame Workshop in June, officials at the organization ordered up several investigations, both by its own staff and by outside firms. They all concluded that the accusation was false.
Despite that, the accuser’s claim was published by TMZ. The site followed up on Tuesday with excerpts from an explicit e-mail said to be from Mr. Clash, which the Web site pointed out was “sent well after the accuser turned 18.” Harvey Levin, the editor of TMZ, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The episode this week led to Mr. Clash coming out as a gay man, something he had not previously discussed in public. “I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter,” he said in the statement on Monday.
Production of “Sesame Street” has been unaffected by Mr. Clash’s leave of absence. Mr. Clash had been helping to identify other puppeteers who could play Elmo for some time, and they will fill in for him while he is away from work, a Sesame Workshop executive said on Monday.
Source: NY Times