The voice behind beloved Sesame Street character Elmo has taken leave from his job amidst allegations that he had an improper relationship with an underage boy.
TMZ first reported that Elmo creator Kevin Clash, 52, was granted a leave of absence from Sesame Workshop after a 23-year-old man came forward to say he had a sexual relationship with the puppeteer when he was only 16 years old. Clash denies the allegation and says the relationship only occured once the man was of legal age.
“I am a gay man,” he said in a statement to People. “I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter. I had a relationship with the accuser… I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Street Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”
Sesame Workshop released a statement to People saying that the sexual allegation claim could not be “substantiated.” Furthermore, the company added, “Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgement and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined.”
Clash has not been charged with any crime, reports ABC.