Elmo will likely be played by a new puppeteer for the foreseeable future.
'Sesame Street' execs have granted Kevin Clash (puppeteer behind Elmo for twenty-seven years) a leave from his duties on the program in order to defend himself against accusations of inappropriate relations with a minor.
Back in June, Sesame Workshop (the production company behind the beloved children's series 'Sesame Street') was approached by a twenty-three year old man who claimed he had a sexual relationship with fifty-two year old Clash seven years ago. That would place Clash at age forty-five and the accuser at the age of sixteen. Sesame Workshop has reportedly met with the accuser on two occasions and has discussed the situation at length with Clash himself.
Clash explained to TMZ that although he had a sexual relationship with the accuser, the relationship did not begin until the accuser was an adult. The allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor are, according to Clash, "false and defamatory."
Sesame Workshop performed its own investigation into the matter and found "the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated." The production company was clear to state that the leave of absence being granted to Clash has been offered so that the puppeteer may "protect his reputation" against these accusations.
When asked for comment about the situation, Clash stated that the relationship "was between two consenting adults" adding that he is "deeply saddened that [the accuser] is trying to make it into something it was not."
While Clash is the fourth puppeteer to play Elmo on 'Sesame Street,' he is by far the longest-running Elmo puppeteer and the voice & personality most associated with the furry red monster. Over the years, Clash assumed the titles of Senior Puppet Coordinator and Muppet Captain. He has also produced and directed several episodes and segments for the program.
More on this unfortunate situation as it develops.