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Accuser Recants Underage Sex Allegations Against Elmo Puppeteer

Kevin Clash arrives at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors held at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 4, 2011 in Washington. (credit: Michael Tran/Getty Images)

Kevin Clash arrives at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors held at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 4, 2011 in Washington. (credit: Michael Tran/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man has now recanted his claims, after splashing across the headlines accusing Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who plays Elmo on “Sesame Street,” of having a sexual affair with him when he was underage.

The man said Tuesday through an attorney Tuesday that his sexual relationship with Clash was adult and consensual.

On Tuesday, the Sesame Workshop – which produces “Sesame Street” – announced that Clash was taking a leave of absence from the popular kids’ show following allegations that the accuser had been 16 when he’d had the affair with Clash.

In response to the accuser’s statement Tuesday afternoon, Clash issued a statement of his own, saying he is “`relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.”

The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement through the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm of Andreozzi & Associates.

The charges were first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.

In a statement issued Monday, the Sesame Workshop — formerly known as the Children’s Television Workshop — said its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.

“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,” Sesame Workshop said. “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.”

“Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation,” said the statement. “We have granted him a leave of absence to do so.”

No duration for the leave was specified.

“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.

Clash also issued his own statement Monday, in which he admitted to having a relationship with the accuser, but said it was between two consenting adults and he was “deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was.”

Clash, the divorced father of a grown daughter, added Monday, “I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.”

Clash, 52, has been with “Sesame Street” since 1983, and has voiced and puppeteered Elmo since 1985, when the late Richard Hunt tossed the puppet to Clash and asked what he could do with it.

Clash also performs Hoots the Owl, and has portrayed the characters Dr. Nobel Price and Baby Natasha. He also made an on-camera appearance on one occasion as a grown up version of Gordon and Susan’s son, Miles, in a flash-forward scene during the 1980s.

Prior to his work on Sesame Street, he appeared on camera and puppeteered a boy named Artie on “Captain Kangaroo.” He also voiced Baby Sinclair on the early 1990s puppet-driven sitcom “Dinosaurs.”

Do you think Clash’s accuser should face charges? Please leave your comments below…

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)