Sesame Street puppeteer disciplined over relationship

Kevin Clash with Elmo Clash was the subject of a 2011 documentary called Being Elmo

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A Sesame Street puppeteer has been disciplined over a relationship he had with a male teenager.

A 23-year-old man contacted the Sesame Street Workshop in June, saying he was in a relationship with Kevin Clash, now 52, that started when he was 16.

Producers said Clash, who has operated the character Elmo since the 1980s, had exercised "poor judgement".

But they said they were satisfied the man who contacted them had been over the age of consent.

The age of consent in New York, where the show is filmed, is 17 - Clash does not deny the relationship but says it happened after the accuser was an adult.

Clash's employers have now given him leave of absence as "he takes action to protect his reputation".

"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," the Sesame Street Workshop said in a statement.

"We conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."

Elmo, they continued, was "bigger than any one person" and would "continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street".

"Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage," the statement continued.

"Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."

Clash, the subject of 2011 documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, has won several Daytime Emmy awards for his work on Sesame Street.

In 2006 he published his autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud.

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