Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash
Kevin Clash has resigned as Elmo's puppeteer, little more than a week following news of a sex scandal involving the longtime Sesame Street staple.
Clash, 52, had been accused by a Pennsylvania man of having a sexual relationship when the man was 16. Later last week, he recanted, claiming he was an adult at the time, and Sesame made plans for Clash to return to work.
But today, TMZ.com claimed a second man has accused Clash of initiating a relationship 20 years ago, when the man was 15, and has now sued him for $5 million, claiming he had only recently become aware of "adverse psychological and emotional effects."
The coverage was too much for Sesame, which did not address the latest allegations in its statement.
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," the company said. "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. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, 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."
In a statement, Clash said he had "a very heavy heart. 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."
While the events threaten to tarnish the image of the children's media company - and disrupt toy sales, analysts say - production of the preschool series has continued, and Elmo will be played by understudies trained by Clash.