Emmy award-winning puppeteer Kevin Clash, who provided the voice of Elmo for nearly three decades, has resigned from "Sesame Street" in the wake of a new lawsuit alleging that he had sex with another under-aged youth.
Sesame Workshop said that in June, a 23-year-old young man, now revealed as Sheldon Stephens, alleged that Clash had started a relationship with him as a teenager, according to the workshop. The workshop announced last week that a thorough investigation found “the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.”
So, Clash,52, went on personal leave to fight what he said were false and defamatory allegations.
With the sexual accusations being made public, Clash also decided to come out as a gay man, something he had not previously discussed in public.
“I am a gay man,” Clash said in a statement issued November 12. “I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.
“I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was.”
On November 13, a law firm saying it represented Stephens released a statement saying he “wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship,” The Associated Press reported.
screenshot via YouTube
Sheldon Stephens, the man who accused Kevin Clash (who voices Elmo on “Sesame Street), of having sex with him when he was a minor.
According to TMZ, Clash also released a statement saying, "I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further."
Pressured to Recant allegations
But now TMZ is reporting the accuser on Monday said he was pressured to change his story, and stands by his original claim that he had sexual relationship with Clash beginning when he was 16 and Kevin was 45.
The victim reportedly told TMZ he got $125,000 from Clash in a settlement.
"Stephens agrees that immediately upon execution of this Agreement, his counsel, Andreozzi & Associates, P.C., shall release the [following] statement ... 'He [Stephens] wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.'"
The settlement document goes on to say if Stephens is asked by anyone about his relationship with Clash, he must only repeat the statement [above] in the settlement that recants his story.
Stephens is telling lawyers he will gladly forfeit the $125,000 to restore his name. Stephens is saying he was literally crying during the final negotiations and repeatedly said he didn't want to sign.Second victim files lawsuit
But that's not all. Now, in a surprising turn of events, a second victim, Cecil Singleton (pictured below), stepped forward on Tuesday, alleging that Clash also molested him while he was a minor.
screenshot via myspace
Cecil Singleton has accused Kevin Clash of sex with him as a minor.
Singleton filed a lawsuit Tuesday, according to TMZ.
Suing Clash in federal court, Singleton, who is reportedly in his 20s, claims that he was 15 years old when he met Clash over a gay chat line in 2003.
Singleton says, “[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys.”
And adds that Clash “preyed on” teen boys, “[Clash] prey[ed] on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests.”
While the alleged sexual abuse occurred 20 years ago, Singleton claims that he decided to sue now because he “did not become aware that he had suffered adverse psychological and emotional effects from Kevin Clash’s sexual acts and conduct until 2012.”
After Singleton's allegations were made known, it was announced that Clash had resigned.
In a statement released Tuesday, Sesame Workshop said:
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 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.“Sesame Street” brand worried over holiday sales
According to the New York Times, production of “Sesame Street” was unaffected by Clash’s leave of absence and presumably will not be affected by his resignation, either. 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.
The Times also notes: "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."