Elmo and Kevin Clash
Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo on Sesame Street, is on a leave of absence from the show amid allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
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The boy, who's now 23, approached show executives in June with claims that he became involved with Clash seven years prior, according to a statement from Sesame Workshop. Clash, 52, denies that they were involved when the boy was underage, and an investigation by Sesame Workshop also revealed that the underage allegation was "unsubstantiated."
Ellen Pompeo spends a day with Elmo
However, according to the organization's statement, "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 statement says Clash is currently on a leave of absence while "taking actions to protect his reputation."
"I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not," Clash tells TMZ.
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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.
Though Clash won't be on the show for the time being, Sesame Workshop assures that Elmo will still be a fixture. "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."