Kevin Clash, the puppeteer for Elmo on Sesame Street, has resigned, in the wake of ongoing allegations that he had sex with a minor.
Elmo accuser says he was pressured to recant
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," Sesame Workshop said in a statement Tuesday. "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."
Clash added: "I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart. I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. 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."
Last week, Clash took a leave of absence from the show amid allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy seven years ago. Clash denied the accusation, saying that he and the accuser, 23-year-old Sheldon Stephens, had a consensual relationship as adults. Stephens later recanted his statement, but then said that he was pressured to do so. Sesame Workshop previously said that it had investigated Stephens' allegation and found it to be "unsubstantiated."
Accuser recants sexual allegations against Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash
Clash's resignation comes just as he's facing new allegations that he had sex with a second underage boy. According to TMZ, the second accuser, Cecil Singleton, has filed a lawsuit against Clash, claiming that the two met on a gay phone chat line in 1993, when Singleton was 15 and Clash was 32. Singleton says in the suit, per TMZ, that he is coming forward now because he "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash's sexual acts and conduct until 2012." He is seeking $5 million in damages.
Clash has voiced Elmo since 1984 and has also voiced Hoots the Owl, Baby Natasha and Dr. Nobel Price. He was the subject of last year's well-received documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey.