(NaturalNews) The man behind the famously popular and beloved Sesame Street character Elmo, who has been voice acting for the puppet character for nearly 30 years, is the subject of new criminal allegations that he had sexual relations with an underage boy. According to reports, 52-year-old Kevin Clash admits to having had a previous relationship with his accuser, who is now 23 years old, but insists that the relationship took place after the boy had already turned 18 years old.
The issue first came to light when the unidentified accuser emailed the nonprofit producer of the Sesame Street show, Sesame Workshop, back in June with claims that Clash had molested him back when he was 16 years old. Sesame Workshop officials say they immediately initiated an investigation into the matter, but came up with nothing in terms of credible evidence to indict Clash.
The group did; however, find that Clash had been violating company policy by using his workplace email for personal reasons, which prompted disciplinary action. But as far as the accusations that Clash had been engaged in illicit sexual activity with a minor, no concrete evidence has been presented by the accuser to back such claims, and all investigatory activity to date has revealed no evidence of foul play.
"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it," said Clash in a statement, noting that the allegations against him are "false and defamatory." "I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults, and I am deeply saddened that he is characterizing it as something other than what it was."
Reports indicate that Sesame Workshop has since granted Clash a leave of absence in order to address what it says are false allegations, and to "protect his reputation." The organization says it has both confronted Clash about the issue and met with Clash's accuser on at least two occasions, and is not convinced based on the evidence that Clash engaged in any sort of impropriety with the accuser.
As far as the reputation of the Sesame Street show itself, Sesame Workshop has indicated its belief that the case will not affect how the public views the Elmo character, especially because the allegations remain unproven. And while Clash is on leave, the show has already hired on understudies to take over the character's voice, which will continue emanating throughout television sets across America.
"We've been through the abrupt demise of Jim Henson, and the passing of our beloved Count," said H. Melvin Ming, President and Chief Executive of Sesame Workshop, about the situation. "Our characters are bigger than a voice or hand."