NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The Sesame Workshop says Elmo actor Kevin Clash has resigned from “Sesame Street” in the wake of an allegation that he had sex with an under-aged youth.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Sesame Workshop called the controversy surrounding Clash’s personal life “a distraction that none of us want” and that Clash “has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job.”
The company called Clash’s resignation “a sad day for Sesame Street.”
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“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
As the announcement was made, a lawsuit was being filed in federal court in New York charging Clash with sexual abuse of a second youth. The lawsuit alleges that Cecil Singleton, then 15 and now an adult, was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters.
The first reports on the incident with Singleton said it happened in 1993, but a corrected complaint said was actually 2003, according to a published report.
“Since I found out that there were other people or victims in a similar circumstance, I felt very guilty,” Singleton said at a news conference. “I felt really guilty because regardless of my maturity or my experience at 15, they were likely not the experiences of any normal 15-year-old.”
Last week, Sesame Workshop announced that Clash was taking a leave of absence from the popular kids’ show following allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
Clash denied that charge, calling it “false and defamatory.”
That accuser, Sheldon Stephens, now 23, recanted his claims a day later and said through an attorney that his sexual relationship with Clash was adult and consensual.
Clash, 52, has been with “Sesame Street” since 1983.
Clash is not the first member of the “Sesame Street” troupe to puppeteer Elmo – Brian Muehl and the late Richard Hunt also had brief stints with the little red monster – but Clash is responsible for creating the character’s distinctive voice and personality.
On its own Web site, “Sesame Street” says “it wasn’t until Clash started performing him in 1984 that the effervescent monster became the huge international sensation that he is today.”
Clash also performs Hoots the Owl, and has portrayed the characters Dr. Nobel Price and Baby Natasha.
This is not the first time that a member of the “Sesame Street” cast has been hit with controversy. Back in 1980, Northern Calloway, the actor who played Hooper’s Store assistant and later owner David, was arrested amid a nervous breakdown in Nashville, after beating a woman with a metal iron and damaging two homes before being found by police in a state of psychosis wearing only a T-shirt.
But Calloway, who was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, remained with the show for another nine years, until he was dismissed and his character was written out. He died in 1990.
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