Turner Station native Kevin Clash has resigned from Sesame Street, bringing to an end his long tenure as the voice, personality and heart of the iconic muppet Elmo.
His resignation comes in the aftermath of allegations that he had an underage sexual relationship with Sheldon Stephens, who initially claimed the relationship occurred when he was just 16.
"Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. 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."
The allegations of sexual misconduct were first made by an unidentified accuser on Nov. 12.
The next day, the alleged victim recanted his story and said it was instead a relationship between consenting adults.
On Nov. 14, The Smoking Gun website identified the accuser as Stephens, and cited a checkered past that included a reckless driving conviction, accusations of armed robbery and passing a bad check—the charges for which were dropped when Stephens made good on the debt.
The original accusation, made on the website TMZ, effectively outed Clash as gay.
“I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter,” he said of his sexuality in a statement he issued last week.
While Clash will no longer be the voice of Elmo, production of Sesame Street has been affected by Clash's resignation, according to the New York Times.
The paper reports that Clash helped identify puppeteers who could take over his duties during his absence, and who could "play Elmo for some time."