All is not well in Elmo's world.
Kevin Clash – the voice of the beloved Sesame Street character Elmo – announced his resignation from the children's TV show Tuesday after 28 years in the midst of allegations that he had sex with an underaged youth.
Last week the online gossip site TMZ reported that a man accused Clash in June of having sex with him at age 16. The man recanted a day later, but on Tuesday a second man came forward and accused Clash of luring him into underage sexual activity. According to a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Cecil Singleton claims he met the then-32-year-old puppeteer in 1993 in a gay chat room when he was 15.
"I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart," Clash, 52, said in a statement. "Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer."
Sesame Workshop issued a statement applauding Clash for his years of service in children's television. "Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want," the statement said. "This is a sad day for Sesame Street."
Here are the events leading up to Clash's resignation, and what has to be one of Sesame Street's worst weeks in the headlines.
Nov. 12: TMZ publishes a story that says a man, now 24, accused Clash in June of having a sexual relationship with him when he was 16. The headline reads "Voice of Elmo Denies Sex With Under-Age Boy." In the story, Clash acknowledges a past relationship with his accuser, but says they were both consenting adults. The TMZ notes that Sesame Street investigated the matter and found the accusations to be false. In a separate statement, Clash says this about being gay: "I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter."
Nov. 13: The man who accused Clash of an underage sexual relationship recants. Andreozzi & Associates, the law firm representing this accuser, issues a statement saying, "He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship."
Nov. 20: TMZ posts that a second accuser, now in his 30s, has filed a $5-million lawsuit against Clash, claiming the puppeteer lured him into a sexual relationship when he was 15 and Clash was 32. The accuser, Cecil Singleton, tells TMZ, "[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys." In the suit, Singleton says that although the sexual activity occurred nearly 20 years ago, he didn't take action until 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." Clash resigns from Sesame Street.
The New York Times reports that Clash had been helping to identify other puppeteers who could play Elmo for some time, so his resignation is not expected to affect production. The outpouring of support for Clash online, however, reflects how deeply his puppeteering work resonated with generations of Sesame Street fans.
With a report from Reuters