Kevin Clash, the man who has been the puppeteer and voice behind Elmo on Sesame Street since 1985, has resigned from the Sesame Workshop amid on-going controversy over allegations of a sexual relationship with a minor.
Last week, a 24-year-old man named Sheldon Stephens accused Clash of engaging him in a sexual affair when he was just 16-years-old. Clash took a leave of absence but rejected the charges, and Sesame Workshop issued a statement saying that they had investigated the accusations and found no impropriety; Stephens later recanted his statements, though various reports have since cloudied his retraction.
Sesame Workshop issued a statement on Tuesday morning, saying, "Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. 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. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, 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."
Also on Tuesday, a second man came forward to accuse Clash of having sex with him while he was underage. Cecil Singleton filed a lawsuit in which he alleges that he met Clash on a gay phone line in the 1990's, when he was just 15-years-old; he is suing for $5 million. According to TMZ, he is only coming forward now, 20 years later, because "did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash's sexual acts and conduct until 2012."