Last week, when allegations arose against longtime Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash that he had inappropriate sexual relations with an underage boy, virtually everyone was relieved when Clash's accuser later recanted his claims. Thinking about the man behind Elmo as a sexual predator of little boys is just too much for most to stomach.
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However, as has been widely reported this morning, a second accuser has now come forward to say Clash had sex with him a decade ago when he was 15, leading to Clash's resignation from Sesame Street today. Commenting on Clash's resignation, Sesame Street Workshop calls the situation surrounding Clash "a distraction that none of us wants."
As has become standard for such unsavory Hollywood-related stories, TMZ first reported the new allegations against Clash. The website reports that Clash's latest accuser is 24-year-old Cecil Singleton, who claims to have met Clash when he was 15 via a gay phone chat line in 2003.
Among the allegations, Singleton claims, "[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys."
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in NYC, Singleton claims Clash "groomed [the accuser] to gain his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money."
Singleton claims while Clash was featured on "Sesame Street," he was "preying on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests."
According to TMZ, Singleton is seeking more than $5 million from his lawsuit against Clash.
In a statement released this morning, Sesame Street Workshop says the accusations against Clash have become a distraction that prevent him from doing his job as the hand inside Elmo.
"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," reads the statement. "Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, 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."
This latest disturbing news comes at what could prove to be a financially detrimental time for Sesame Street , with the holiday shopping season right around the corner and Elmo a longtime parental favorite for under the tree.
Production of "Sesame Street" was unaffected by Mr. Clash's leave of absence and presumably will not be affected by his resignation, either. Mr. Clash had been helping to identify other puppeteers who could play Elmo for some time, and they filled in for him while he was away from work, a Sesame Workshop executive said last week.
But the repetition of claims about underage sex in the same sentence as a beloved children's character may impact the "Sesame Street" brand in ways that remain to be seen. The years-old allegations are bubbling up at the beginning of the holiday shopping season.