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NEW YORK (AP)
-- The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" is taking a
leave of absence from the popular kids' show in the wake of allegations
that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
Workshop said puppeteer Kevin Clash denies the charges, which were
first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.
took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame
Workshop said in a statement issued Monday. "We met with the accuser
twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who
denied the accusation."
described the relationship as personal and "unrelated to the workplace."
Its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be
unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was
disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It
offered no details.
"I had a relationship with
(the accuser)," Clash told TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults
and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it
At his request, Clash has been granted a leave of absence in order to "protect his reputation," Sesame Workshop said.
No further explanation was provided, nor was the duration of his leave specified.
is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part
of `Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the
world, as it has for 40 years," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.
Street" is currently in production, but other puppeteers are prepared
to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to
the show who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not
authorized to publicly discuss details about the show's production.
"Elmo will still be a part of the shows being produced," that person said.
52-year-old Clash, the divorced father of a grown daughter, has been a
puppeteer for "Sesame Street" since 1984. It was then that he was handed
the fuzzy red puppet named Elmo and asked to come up with a voice for
him. Clash transformed the character, which had been a marginal member
of the Muppets troupe for a number of years, into a major star rivaling
Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."
2006, Clash published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red
Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A