Sesame Street might not be mired in seediness after all.
The unnamed accuser of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has reportedly taken back underage sexual allegations that were brought against him on Monday. Initial reports saw the accuser claiming that he was only 16 years old when he began a sexual relationship with Clash, but now claims it was "an adult consensual relationship."
Sesame Workshop refuted the initial allegations, claiming they had been looked into over several months by outside investigators and "found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated [although] Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage, and he was disciplined." In response to the latest news, the organization said in a statement: “We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode.”
TMZ's initial report led to Clash outing himself as a gay man, something he had never made public. "I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter." He insisted that the affair was between consenting adults, which the latest update supports.
The puppeteer took a leave of absence from the popular children's show in order to challenge the defamatory charges. Clash told the New York Times "I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further."
As fun as gossip sites like TMZ can be, it's always tough to see a person's reputation marred when they can't be bothered to investigate a sensitive story like this further before throwing it on their front page. Not only was this man forced to come out of the closet, a deeply personal moment for a gay person itself, he also was labeled a pedophile, a label that will be tough to shake even with the story being recanted.