NEW YORK (AP) - Longtime Elmo puppeteer Kevin
Clash resigned Tuesday from "Sesame Street" amid a second allegation
that he sexually abused underage boys.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in
New York by 24-year-old college student Cecil Singleton accuses Clash of
engaging in sexual behavior with him over a two-week period while he
was underage. Singleton said they met on a gay chat line.
At a news conference, Singleton said he had no idea at the time what Clash did for a living.
In its statement, Sesame
Workshop said "the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has
become a distraction that none of us want," leading Clash to conclude
"that he can no longer be effective in his job."
"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," the company said.
In a statement of his own,
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."
Singleton's lawyer, Jeff
Herman, said he had been contacted by two other potential victims and
expected additional legal action. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of
The New York-based Sesame
Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street," had no comment on the lawsuit.
Clash did not address the new allegation. He said previously that he
had an adult and consensual relationship with the first accuser.
Clash, who had been on
"Sesame Street" for 28 years, created the high-pitched voice and
child-like persona for Elmo, a furry, red Muppet that became one of the
most popular characters on the show and one of the company's most
Clash's exit followed a
tumultuous week that began on Nov. 12 with a statement from the company
that Clash had requested a leave of absence following the charge by a
man in his early 20s that he had had a relationship with Clash when he
Clash denied the charge from that man, who has not been publicly identified, calling it "false and defamatory."
Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, acknowledged that he is gay in that statement.
Sesame Workshop, which said
it was first contacted in June by that accuser, said it had launched an
investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice. Its
investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be
The next day Clash's
accuser recanted his charge, describing his sexual relationship with
Clash as adult and consensual. Clash responded that he was "relieved
that this painful allegation has been put to rest."
It was in the mid-1980s
that Clash, a young puppeteer at "Sesame Street," was assigned a
little-used puppet now known as Elmo and turned him into a star.
Besides his heavy presence
on "Sesame Street," Elmo has been a major moneymaker for Sesame
Workshop. Elmo toys probably account for one-half to two-thirds of the
$75 million in annual sales the Sesame Street toy line generates for toy
maker Hasbro, which took over the Sesame Street license in 2010,
estimates BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson.
Meanwhile, Clash became
somewhat of a star himself. 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."
In addition to his marquee
role as Elmo, Clash served as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and
Muppet captain. He won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.
Though it remained unclear
who might take over performing as Elmo, other "Sesame Street" puppeteers
have been trained to serve as his stand-in, Sesame Workshop said.
"Elmo is bigger than any one person," the company said last week.
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