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Elmo Star Kevin Clash Accused Of Underage Sex
The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on Sesame Street has been accused of having an underage relationship with a teenage boy.
Kevin Clash is taking leave of absence from the popular children's show following allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
The 52-year-old puppeteer denies the claims, which according to the non-profit organisation behind the show, Sesame Workshop, were first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.
"I had a relationship with the accuser," Mr Clash said in a statement. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterise it as something other than what it was."
In a statement, Sesame Workshop said its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.
"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said in a statement issued on Monday. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."
Sesame Workshop described the relationship as "unrelated to the workplace".
But the organisation said Mr Clash exercised "poor judgement" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding internet usage. It gave no further details.
At his request, Mr Clash has been granted leave of absence in order to "protect his reputation," Sesame Workshop said.
Mr Clash, a divorced father of a grown daughter, said: "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.
"I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
No duration for the leave was specified.
Mr Clash has voiced and animated Elmo since the 1980s.
He starred in a documentary in 2011, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, in which he revealed his lifelong ambition to be a puppeteer.
He has received numerous awards for his work as Elmo.