Kevin Clash, puppeteer behind Elmo, accused of sex with underage male teen

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Kevin Clash, the celebrated and successful puppeteer behind Sesame Street‘s beloved Elmo character, has been accused of a having sex with an underage teenage boy, according to TMZ.

Lawyers for the Sesame Workshop have reportedly met with a 23-year-old man who claims to have slept with Clash seven years ago when he was only 16 and the performer was 45.

Clash has admitted to a sexual relationship with the individual in question but after they were of the legal age of consent. Still, he is taking a leave of absence from the classic children’s program while the case is being sorted out.

“In June of this year, Sesame Workshop received a communication from a then 23 year old man who alleged that he had a relationship beginning when he was 16 years old with Kevin Clash, a Sesame Workshop puppeteer who performs as Elmo,” reps for Sesame Workshop said in a statement released today.

“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.”

“Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation.  We have granted him a leave of absence to do so,” they said.

Clash has also come forward to plead his case.

“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 told TMZ.

Still Sesame Workshop has put some distance between themselves and Clash.

“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,” they said in their statement.

“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,” they added.

According to NBC News, “Clash has performed with Sesame Street characters since 1979, when he played Cookie Monster in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He became an official puppeteer on Sesame Street in 1984 and created character voices for puppets such as Baby Natasha and Dr. Nobel Price, but the marriage of Elmo and Clash’s stylized high-pitched toddler voice caught fire once he began voicing the puppet in 1985.”

At this point it is unclear how long Clash’s “leave of absence” will be of if any criminal charges will be filed.