This is surely not what “Sesame Street” was hoping to start off the week with: one of the most serious allegations to ever shake their franchise regarding the man responsible for voicing the beloved puppet Elmo.
If you are reading this story, you have probably heard the headlines already about a now 23-year old man accusing Kevin Clash of having a sexual relationship with him when he was just 16 years old. If this was proven to be true, Clash (who is 52) would not only lose his job on the popular children’s series, but also would go to prison for a very long time. This story is sensitive for a number of reasons, whether it be the fact that Clash works for a children’s television show or the mere nature of the allegations. What remains a mystery, however, is the answer to a very simple question: is any of this true?
In a statement to TMZ, Clash insists that he is innocent, saying that he and the man did have a relationship, but it was not until the alleged victim was a consenting adult:
“I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.”
Meanwhile, “Sesame Street” production house Sesame Workshop has also released a statement of their own believing Clash’s side of the story:
“[After a] thorough investigation, [we] found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.” However, “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.”
There are really so many layers to this story that make this even more complicated. You likely have some conservative parents calling for Clash’s firing no matter what, others claiming that the accuser is being opportunistic, and there are probably some political conspiracy theorists out there claiming that these allegations were purposefully hidden from the media until after the Presidential election to help PBS, who Mitt Romney famously spoke out against when it comes to government funding.
It’s also impossible to tell what the “right move” for Sesame Workshop is, since they could end up with egg on their face no matter how they decide to handle it. Did Clash put himself in a position to be taken advantage of? The nature of the situation coupled with the massive age difference between the two points to the answer here being “yes.” However, there’s a difference between making a bad decision and breaking the law, and with the lack of actual evidence of any wrongdoing on the voice actor’s part, the company at the moment seems to be making the right decision. Considering that the company’s investigation actually happened months ago, it would seem that some tangible proof would have surfaced if it were there.
What do you think “Sesame Street” should do when it comes to this touchy subject? We want to hear some of your thoughts in the poll below.
Photo: Sesame Workshop