Puppeteer Kevin Clash during the ‘Independent Lens – Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ panel during the PBS portion of the 2011 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who for decades has brought the beloved character Elmo to life on Sesame Street, is officially leaving the show in midst of allegations that has had sexual relationships with underage boys.
Clash is leaving the show after 28 seasons because the accusations, which he has vehemently denied, are a “distraction.”
The performer had previously been on an extended leave of absence from the show.
When the initial claims were reported, Sesame Street stood by Clash but also suggested that his departure would not effect the future of Elmo.
“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, as it has for 40 years,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
The Clash resignation comes on the heels of TMZ reports that his first accuser was paid off to recant his story and that a second accuser has come forward, alleging he had a relationship with Clash when he was only 15 years old.
That accuser, who has been identified as Cecil Singleton, filed a lawsuit against Clash on Tuesday.
Sesame Workshop released this statement today in reaction to Clash’s departure:
“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.”