Longtime Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned following accusations that he engaged in sexual relationships with two minors.
Clash, who was the voice and puppeteer behind the character Elmo since 1984, initially took a leave of absence last week after an anonymous accuser, now in his 20s, claimed he had been molested by Clash beginning when he was 16. The man recanted his accusation the day after the allegation went public, but has since stuck by his original story, claiming he was pressured into accepting a settlement.
Meanwhile, a second man named Cecil Singleton has come forward, saying Clash persuaded him to meet for sexual encounters when he was 15. Singleton is seeking $5 million in damages for "adverse psychological and emotional effects" suffered during his involvement with Clash.
Singleton said he decided to file the lawsuit now 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.”
PRWeek reported last week that Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street, is working with FTI Consulting on crisis communications.
“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,” the organization said in a statement following Clash's resignation. “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.”
Clash also released a statement Tuesday.
“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,” he said. “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.”