Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, leaves 'Sesame Street'

Kevin Clash, the Baltimore-born puppeteer who was the voice behind the beloved "Sesame Street" character Elmo, resigned Tuesday in the wake of allegations that he had sex with minors.

Though a man who'd accused Clash last week of having underage sex recanted, Clash released a short statement saying he was leaving the show with sadness after another accuser emerged.


"I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart," he said. "I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. 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."

Officials with Sesame Workshop, the producers of "Sesame Street," had released a statement earlier in the day, saying recent allegations regarding Clash's personal life had become a distraction from their mission of delivering educational programming to children.


"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," officials said. "Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, 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."

Allegations that Clash, 52, had sex with a 16-year-old boy were first reported last week by TMZ. Clash took a leave of absence from "Sesame Street" and quickly denied the assertions, admitting he did have sexual relations with the accuser, now 23, but they didn't begin until the accuser was an adult. The accuser has not come forward publicly, though several publications have named an individual.

Sesame Workshop officials also said they had been aware of the accusations for some time and after investigating them, concluded they were "unsubstantiated."

A day later, the accuser recanted. A Harrisburg, Pa.-based law firm representing him released a statement saying that he had, in fact, been an adult at the time of the relationship.

"I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest," Clash said then. "I will not discuss it further."

But this week as TMZ reported that the accuser was having second thoughts about dropping the accusation, a second accuser came forward.

Cecil Singleton of New York, now in his 20s, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York alleging he had an extensive underage sexual relationship with Clash.

Singleton alleges that in 2003, when he was 15 years old, he called a gay chat line and started communicating with Clash.


According to the suit, Singleton said Clash "persuaded, induced, coerced or enticed" him to meet for sex, earning his trust by "taking him to nice dinners and giving him money."

Alleging he suffered emotional trauma that he realized this year, Singleton is seeking $5 million.

Singleton's Miami-based attorney, Jeff Herman, told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that his client decided to file the suit after hearing about the other accuser.

"He saw himself as a pretty sophisticated 15-year-old," Herman said, "But knowing these potential other teenagers are out there, he thinks they could be much more vulnerable and by exposing the truth, maybe those kids can get help and he can stop it from going any further."

Herman said Singleton was pleased to hear of Clash's resignation.

"I think he just wants to protect kids," he said. "If that's part of that, then that's good."


Clash, who has previously been married, grew up in Turners Station in southeastern Baltimore County, teaching himself to work puppets. His parents, who still live in town, declined to comment for this story. Clash's spokeswoman did not respond to The Sun's requests for an interview with Clash.

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Clash won more than 10 Emmy Awards for his work on "Sesame Street," creating Elmo, a furry red monster famous for his giggle. Clash worked the character's voice in falsetto.

Last year his efforts as the puppeteer behind Elmo were the subject of a documentary, "Being Elmo." Before its release co-director/editor Philip Shane told The Sun about Clash, "He wouldn't want to be called a hero, but, to me and millions of others, he surely is."

As news of Clash's resignation spread, reaction on social media ranged from crude jokes to laments for the loss of what had for many become a beloved voice of childhood. Singer Jill Scott, for one, posted on Twitter, "I am deeply saddened to hear about Kevin Clash."

"Thanks to Kevin Clash for making work (not just as puppeteer, but as an exec) that my son loves," wrote New York blogger Anil Dash. "Shame adults don't hear Elmo's message."

Sesame Workshop officials did not respond Tuesday to questions about what Clash's resignation means for the future of Elmo.