Kevin Clash, the longtime puppeteer and voice of Sesame Street's Elmo, has resigned from the children's television program amid underage sex allegations, Sesame Workshop announced on Tuesday.
The non-profit organization called the scandal a "distraction," according to a statement published by The New York Times.
The statement reads:
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.
Last week, a 24-year-old man publicly accused Clash of having a sexual relationship with him while he was a teenager, only to recant his statement one day later. On Tuesday, a second lawsuit was reportedly filed by another individual.
Clash joined the cast of Sesame Street in 1984 and later invented the character of Elmo. He received national attention for the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey."
More from the Associated Press:
By FRAZIER MOORE
NEW YORK — Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from "Sesame Street" in the wake of an allegation that he had sex with an under-aged youth.
In its statement Tuesday, Sesame Workshop said "the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want," leading Clash to conclude "that he can no longer be effective in his job."
"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," the statement said.
As the announcement was made, a lawsuit was being filed in federal court in New York charging Clash with sexual abuse of a second youth. The lawsuit alleges that Cecil Singleton, then 15 and now an adult, was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters.
Clash, who had been on "Sesame Street" for 28 years, created the high-pitched voice and child-like persona for Elmo, a furry, red Muppet that became one of the most popular characters on the show and one of the company's most lucrative properties.
Clash's exit from Sesame Workshop followed a tumultuous week that began on Nov. 12 with a statement from the company that Clash had requested a leave of absence following the charge by a man in his early 20s that he had had a relationship with Clash when he was 16.
Clash denied the charge from that man, who has not been publicly identified, calling it "false and defamatory." Days later the man recanted his charge.