By: Brian Braiker
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who has given life to Elmo on Sesame Street since 1984, has taken a leave of absence from the show amid allegations he had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy.
Clash vehemently denies the charges, made in June by a 23-year-old man who claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Clash when he was 16 years old.
Plus: Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse
However, Clash has admitted that he had a relationship with the young man, but insists it only took place after the accuser was an adult.
In a statement, Sesame Workshop said an investigation into the matter "found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."
TMZ broke the news Monday that Sesame Workshop lawyers recently met with the accuser, who claims he and Clash began the sexual relationship 7 years ago.
In light of the allegations, Clash will be taking a leave of absense from Sesame Street for the foreseeable future.
Clash, 52, has won several Emmy awards for his work as Elmo over the last 28 years, and gained fame in his own right after being featured in the award-winning 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," which chronicles how he turned the little red monster into an icon for millions of kids.
Plus: Sesame Street Coloring Pages
The statement by Sesame Workshop reads, in full:
We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined.
Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so.
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.
More from Parenting.com:
An Open Letter to Big Bird
Kids Share Their Thoughts on the Election
9 Unique Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving