NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The young man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of having sex with him as an underage teen, then recanted his story, has broken his silence.
As the Insider’s Kevin Frazier reported for CBS 2, college student Sheldon Stephens came forward for an exclusive interview from his dorm room in Harrisburg, Pa., just after midnight Tuesday night.
Clash on Monday resigned from his position at the Sesame Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street,” on Monday. 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.”
Stephens defended himself against those who have accused him of trying to ruin Clash’s reputation.
“I would like to say, you know, my name has been on fairly dragged through the media, and it kind of made me look like a monster,” Stephen said. “I think the biggest misconception about me is that I am a liar; an extortionist.”
At the heart of the controversy are reports that Stephens, now 24, had a sexual affair with Clash while he was underage. Clash maintained the relationship was adult and consensual.
In the Insider interview, he declined to comment about the underage question.
“I can’t really answer that question on camera,” Stephens said. “But, like I said, there were a lot of rumors that got out. So I’m just trying to protect myself and the image of my family, myself and my brand.”
Stephens said he met Clash in New York City, but provided few other details.
“I actually met Kevin in New York a few years ago, so I can’t really go into detail right now, but we met in New York City,” he said.
While Stephens reportedly recanted his claim of being underage, he said the recantation was a “rumor.”
“Basically, there were rumors involved with that recantation; like, there were people speaking like they were me, but all those allegations and all those rumors are false,” Stephens said. “Like, I never really made a statement to recant, you know. So, like I said, those are all rumors that kind of got morphed into something bigger.”
The first reports said Stephens was 16 when he had the affair with Clash.
Stephens said he wants to have a direct conversation with Clash and “just be adults and handle the situation in a more mature, understanding way.”
Since Stephens made his allegations, a second young man has also accused Clash of having a sexual affair when he was underage. Cecil Singleton filed a lawsuit Tuesday.
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.”
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.”