Just a little over a week ago, allegations dropped that famed puppeteer Kevin Clash, who has been behind beloved characters like bass playing Clifford from “The Jim Henson Hour,” Baby Sinclair from the popular show “Dinosaurs” and of course, Elmo, had a relationship with an underage gentleman. Since then, Clash and his defense team have been very clear that they’re ready to fight the allegations as they said that while he did have a relationship with the accuser, Sheldon Stephens, they dated after the young man was of age. By the end of last week, Stephens recanted his claims, and then later claimed he was paid off and didn’t want to take back what he said. You would think that with the accuser’s credibility looking very tired at this point that Clash would be somewhere in good spirits, but today he spent the morning parting ways with the folks at the Sesame Workshop. According to a blog on The New York Times, after nearly 30 years of working for them, Clash decided that he could no longer be effective in his role with the company because of the negative attention surrounding him and resigned.
He probably came to this conclusion after reports came out that there is a second man saying he had an underage sexual relationship with the puppeteer. According to TMZ, the second accuser, Cecil Singleton, has come forward to say he had a relationship with Clash some 20 odd years ago but just came out about it 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.”
While it remains to be seen what exactly will happen to Kevin Clash with all these new claims and reports coming out, according to The New York Times, Elmo will continue on as cash cow and pretty much the most famed puppet they have on Sesame Street. Someone else will fill the role of puppeteer for the beloved red monster and with the help of Clash, the company had already pinpointed people that could take over for him (maybe Clash was considering retiring soon?), and they had started to do so when allegations first came out. But at this point, everyone is asking how Clash’s reputation, which has been tarnished by the either true claims or malicious lies of a few, will affect the Sesame Street brand, particularly the character of Elmo. Will parents still be able to watch the show, check out “Elmo’s World” with their children and feel okay about it? Will they buy Elmo products more or less? Time will tell. If the allegations are false, hopefully Clash can have his name cleared (the claims just seem really shady since they’re coming around the same time and for the purpose of collecting money), but if they’re true, he’ll have to deal with the consequences and I’m pretty sure Elmo’s popularity will take an even bigger hit. But as someone who used to LOVE Elmo as a kid, and went on to be very fond of Clash after watching the documentary on his life, Being Elmo, I have to admit that this is a very sad day indeed for Muppet lovers everywhere.
Here’s a clip of Singleton making his case at a press conference today. Are you surprised Clash resigned? Was it the appropriate move at this point?