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Elmo Puppeteer Clash Quits Sesame Street
Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from Sesame Street in the wake of claims that he had sex with an underaged youth, as a further allegation emerged.
Last week a man accused Mr Clash, 52, of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy, a claim he denied. A day later, the man withdrew his charge.
Now a second accuser, Cecil Singleton, has filed a $5m (£3.1m) lawsuit alleging that when he was 15 he was persuaded by Mr Clash to meet for sexual encounters.
Mr Singleton claims he met the then 32-year-old puppeteer in 1993 in a gay chat room.
His lawsuit, filed in New York, added that on numerous occasions over a period of years Mr Clash engaged in sexual activity with him.
Mr Clash, who was in the show for 28 years, created the voice and persona for the furry, red Muppet Elmo, one of Sesame Street's most popular characters.
Following his resignation Sesame Workshop said: "Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street.
"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," the New York-based non-profit organisation added.
In a statement of his own, Mr Clash said: "Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer.
"I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
Last week, in response to his former accuser's statement, Mr Clash issued a statement, saying he was "relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest".
The puppeteer, who is openly gay, steadfastly denied claims that he was involved in a sexual relationship with the unidentified man when he was aged 16.
Mr Clash acknowledged having had a relationship with the man, but insisted it had been "between two consenting adults".
The organisation behind the long-running children's show said it was first made aware of the accusations in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.
Sesame Workshop said its own investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be "unsubstantiated".
It described the relationship as "unrelated to the workplace", but said Mr Clash exercised "poor judgement" and had been disciplined for violating company policy regarding internet usage.
During his time on Sesame Street Mr Clash won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.
In 2006, he published an autobiography, My Life As A Furry Red Monster, and was the subject of the 2011 documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey.