Kevin Clash, the voice and puppeteer of beloved Sesame Street monster Elmo, has resigned today, amid allegations that he engaged in at least one sexual relationship with a minor.
Yesterday, Sheldon Stephens, the 23-year-old man who last week accused Clash of starting an inappropriate relationship with Stephens when he was underage, retracted his recant of the charges and said he wanted to return the $125,000 out-of-court settlement he received.
When the story first broke, Clash took a leave of absence from the show and denied the charges, but did admit to having a relationship with the accuser who is now 23. He said the relationship did not start until after the accuser was an adult.
Today, according to TMZ, a second man has come forward, claiming that he also had an underage sexual relationship with Clash. The accuser says he was 15 at the time the relationship started and Clash, 32. The unnamed man is suing Clash in federal court.
Sesame Workshop released a statement on their website that 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 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 Workshop has said in the past that Clash's absence will not effect that muppet's presence on the show.
"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years," the organization said in a statement.
Clash has served as Elmo's puppeteer since 1984.