Elmo actor Kevin Clash quits Sesame Street amid sex scandal

Puppeteer who made red monster famous accused of trolling chatlines for boys

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 4:08am

Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash resigned from Sesame Street on Tuesday amid allegations he sexually abused underage boys, ending a 28-year career in which he turned the furry red monster into one of the most beloved - and lucrative - characters on television.

"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," the 52-year-old said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

The resignation came as Cecil Singleton, a 24-year-old college student, sued Clash for more than US$5 million, accusing the actor of engaging in sexual behaviour with him when he was 15.

It was the second such allegation in just over a week. On November 12, a man in his 20s said he had sex with Clash at age 16. However, a day later the young man said their relationship was adult and consensual.

Clash was a young puppeteer at Sesame Street in the mid-1980s when he was given a little-used puppet now known as Elmo. He turned the character into a star, creating his high-pitched voice and child-like personality.

Clash was also the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain, winning 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.

A Sesame Workshop spokesperson said: "The controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction none of us want … and [Clash] can no longer be effective in his job."

"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," the company added.

Clash did not address the new allegations. He has previously confirmed an adult and consensual relationship with the first accuser. The divorced father of a grown-up daughter, Clash acknowledged that he is gay.

Singleton claims he and Clash met on a gay chatline when he was 15 and, for two-weeks, had sexual contact but not intercourse. He said he didn't know what Clash did for a living until he was 19 and Googled his name. Singleton's lawyer, Jeff Herman, said he had been contacted by two other potential victims.

Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is 21 or older.