After allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy, the Elmo puppeteer of "Sesame Street" is taking a leave of absence from the well-liked show, Kare11 reported.
The charges against the puppeteer, 52-year-old Kevin Clash, were first made by the accuser, now 23-years-old, in June. Sesame Workshop says Clash denies the accusations made against him. Sesame Workshop released a statement on Monday saying "its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details," Kare11 reported.
"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," Sesame Workshop said. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation." Clash himself also publicly denied the accusations: "I had a relationship with (the accuser)," Clash told TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not," Yahoo! News reported.
"Sesame Street" is currently in production, said a person close to the show but is speaking under anonymity because he or she is not allowed to publicly discuss details of the show's production. There are other puppeteers ready to fill in for Clash while he's gone, and "Elmo will still be a part of the show being produced," that person said, Yahoo! News reported.
Clash has voiced and animated Elmo since 1984. Clash is credited for transforming Elmo's character and making him one of the most recognized faces on "Sesame Street," Yahoo! News reported.
It is unclear how long Clash will be on leave from the show. Sesame Workshop says Clash requested a leave of absence to "protect his reputation," Kare11 reported.