Kevin Clash, the Voice of Elmo on Sesame Street, Resigns. Do You Have to Tell Your Kids?

Elmo and puppeteer Kevin Clash at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors on December 4, 2011. (Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage) …Kevin Clash -- the puppeteer who brought Elmo to life -- announced on Tuesday that he is resigning from "Sesame Street" as news broke of a second man accusing him of sexual abuse.

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"I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart. I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization," 52-year-old Clash said in a statement on Tuesday. "Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," representatives from Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "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."

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How will kids cope with the disappearance of one of their favorite "Sesame Street" characters? They probably won't have to.

While Clash is credited with making the beloved, furry red monster into a household name, he's actually the third person to play his voice. (Elmo made his debut on "Sesame Street" in 1979.) Other "Sesame Street" puppeteers had occasionally filled in as Elmo in the past, a Sesame Workshop executive told the New York Times.

"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," executives said in a statement as the scandal broke earlier this month.

On November 12, a 24-year-old man later identified as model Sheldon Stephens accused Clash of having had a sexual relationship with him when he was 16 and Clash was 45. The age of consent in New York state, where "Sesame Street" is filmed, is 17.

Clash insisted that the relationship took place only after the accuser was of age, and took a leave of absence from the show "to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."

"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter," Clash said at the time. "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."

A day later, Stephens recanted, confirming that his relationship with Clash "was an adult consensual relationship," his lawyers said in a statement. But on Monday he renewed his claim of abuse, saying that Clash had paid him $125,000 and pressured him to deny his earlier accusations.

Clash's resignation on Tuesday comes as a lawsuit was being filed in federal court in New York by Cecil Singleton, who claims that Clash frequented "gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys." Now 24, Singleton says that he met Clash for sexual encounters nearly a decade ago, when he was 15.

If Clash had been an actor on any adult drama -- "NCIS," for example, or "Game of Thrones," or even a daytime soap opera -- this sex scandal probably wouldn't make much of a difference in his career. Ditto if he had been accused of seeking out teenage girls, though the age factor makes it outrage-worthy. But he's the voice of Elmo, a children's character that many parents today grew up with themselves; while preschoolers rarely think about the person behind the puppet, their parents may have a harder time separating the actor from the accusations, even in a place as tolerant as "Sesame Street."

Parents, does this change how you feel about the TV show? Or can an actor's personal problems be separate from his professional life, even if he's an icon for your kids?