Kevin Clash announces his departure from Sesame Street following sex scandal

Following last week's underage sex scandal, Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has decided to step down from his 28-year position at Sesame Street. A statement was released by Sesame Workshop on Clash's behalf:

"...Kevin Clash has helped us achieve [our] 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. 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."

A sad day indeed. Clash was recently the subject of allegations of an underage sexual relationships with two men. One of them, who claimed he'd been 16 at the time, later recanted and settled, saying he was 18, but regretted taking the claim back. TMZ is also saying that a second man claims a phone relationship began when he was 15 and Clash was 32. Bummer. (via The Wrap)

Previously: Child sexual abuse allegations against voice of Elmo withdrawn


    1. Victims.  From what’s above, it sounds like one relationship between consenting adults, plus some phone calls to a 15 year old boy.  I don’t know if you were ever a 15yo boy, but I was, and you would have had to talk pretty damn dirty before I felt victimized.

      Unless you did it in the Elmo voice.  I can see where that would leave scars.

      EDIT: For the record, yes I am minimizing the horror of the victimization here.

      1. The rush to brand Kevin Clash as a “pedophile” for what sounds like, at worst, some phone calls to someone whose age he may not have even known is frightening. This is why he’s stepping away, I think — the witch-hunt’s already started, and sadly, it won’t stop.

  1. Our family is watching Sesame Street on Netflix so we are several seasons away from this change, but man it’s going to be hard when Elmo leaves.

    It’s bittersweet when the real lives of puppeteers impact such beautiful fantasies. Although Sesame Street has a good track record of being straight-forward with children about the real world.

      1.  There are already several Elmo puppeteers. I know one personally and he’s been doing it for years.

      2. I believe Clash was also Elmo’s voice actor.  While that doesn’t make him irreplaceable, kids are likely to notice a change in Elmo’s voice.

        1. Unlikely. There was supposed to be a big hubbub when Big Bird’s voice actor changed, but no one actually cared when it happened.

          1. I think they’ll notice; I know I notice when a voice actor changes. Whether or not they’ll care is another mater.

          2. I respect your thinking, but my experience of 6 year olds who knew of Elmo 10 years ago is that they are 16 now.

        2. They’re really not likely to know. Voice actors who work with each other routinely learn dead-on versions of their fellow actors’ characters. Ever notice how much of the time, Mel Blanc was credited with “voice characterization”? Once the voice is established, there is usually another actor who can imitate it. Though some subtle magic may get lost in the feel of the line readings after the switchover, the voice itself will, in all likelihood be nearly identical.

          1. I was thinking specifically of Mel Blanc, actually. I don’t know of any times he was successfully imitated while he was alive, but after he died the imitation Looney Tunes voices were a pretty major letdown for me.

    1. “Although Sesame Street has a good track record of being straight-forward with children about the real world.”

      The ghost of Northern Calloway would like a word with you.

  2. I don’t know if it’s just the way the article is worded, but neither victim seems to have a desire to bring Clash to any sort of justice aside from draining him of every dollar he has. Clash should face punishment if these allegations do indeed end up to be true, but so far (on a very topical level) they’re looking like legal situations being exaggerated for profit.

    1. At some point one asks oneself, what sort of justice is available? The optics of how the story has evolved aren’t good. I see that too. But no matter what subsequent decisions were made by the potential victim, they don’t undo the alleged crime.

      Innocent until proven guilty, it applies to both sides of any story.

      1. It’s funny that when someone else, like myself, says that we shouldn’t rush to judgement and that both sides are innocent until proven guilty, you decide that they’re suspiciously sympathetic towards the accused and should be held in contempt.

        I’m saying the same thing you’re saying. Please understand that.

          1. If you think that the things I’m saying are contradictory, then you’re mis-reading what I’m saying and ignoring my replies.

            Either you’re being vindictive for fun or you’re being intentionally obtuse. In either case, you’ve badly misinterpreted my comments. Stop doing so.

  3. Ugh. Depressing. You know what? Today sucks? A year go today I got home from seeing “Being Elmo” to learn that my mother had died suddenly while on a cruise ship off Brazil. So today as I try to get through this horrible anniversary, this news just seems fitting.

    Blegh. Today sucks.

  4. That will likely alter things radically on the Street. Clash was such an integral part of the show and its production for nearly a generation. I wonder if they plan to remove all instances of Elmo, including all those Elmo’s World segments. It’d be tough – since ’99 (at least) it has been the Elmo show.

      1. I’m assuming because Elmo is more or less Clash’s character (no idea if he actually owns the character but he IS that character) and no one else performs Elmo. So Elmo is guilty by association? That’s my thought. 

        1.  Nope.  He’ll be replaced by another voice actor, or several.  If they can replace Jim Henson and Frank Oz, they can replace Clash.

          1. The depressing thought is that a man spent 30 years building a career to educate and help children and it will more or less be nullified by the allegations, media frenzy and a corporation more interested in the brand. Would you rather be remembered as someone who brought joy to children or as paedophile? Because in some of the media I’ve seen and speaking with acquaintances that’s how he’s being talked about. 

            I’m not trying to minimise his behaviour or poor decisions but based on the allegations which have been presented in the media, the man is hardly a Jimmy Savile. To be painting him as such, to me anyway, is depressing. 

          2. “The depressing thought is that a man spent 30 years building a career to educate and help children and it will more or less be nullified by the allegations, media frenzy and a corporation more interested in the brand.”

            I get depressed when I think I’m omniscient too. Or vice versa.

  5. Gordon: [singing] Can’t you see that you both agree / What’s the reason for this spat?
    Susan: [singing] You like to say things this way / And you like to say things that.
    Telly Monster: [singing] What a shame / It all means the same / There’s no need to make a scene.
    Elmo: [singing] There are lot’s of ways to say the very same thing / If you know what I mean / SO… 

    1. I so want to see Yoda say to luke: First understand you must….  NEAR….. FAR….. NEAR…. FAR….

    2. If you’re old enough to remember when Grover was more popular than Elmo then your opinion on the subject probably doesn’t really concern the show’s producers anyway.

  6. Isn’t it convenient the way people suddenly remember being ‘forced’ to have sex with famous, rich people as soon as other people file lawsuits? “Gee, I’d repressed this memory for a few years until I saw a headline on TMZ that reminded me to sue someone.”

    1. So if you’re trying to say that everyone who comes forward as a victim of abuse when the alleged perpetrator gets sued is a gold-digging fraud, why not just come out and say that directly?

      EDIT: I’m honestly curious, and the question isn’t rhetorical; is that what you are trying to imply?

      1. Nnnoooo…. not in the slightest.
        I’m actually specifically referring to the second gentleman who’s filing a lawsuit in this case, who literally claims that he just realized a few months ago (coincidentally, exactly the same time that the first accuser came forward) that he’d been abused back in 2003. Somehow he suddenly suffered “ill effects”. How convenient, wouldn’t you say?

        1. I wasn’t sure if you were making a general or specific claim. I’d want to know more about the case before drawing any conclusions, though.

          1. gobo doesn’t seem concerned with you, or gobo, leaping to a conclusion.

            What’s the rush gobo?

          2. My entire point is that we shouldn’t rush to any conclusions, nor should we take anything at face value when enormous sums of money are involved. There’s a lot of rushing to judgement and I’d prefer we avoided that. What conclusions did you think I reached?

          3. @gobo = So we shouldn’t rush to conclusions, but it’s okay when you do.

            Different rules for us plebes, then?

        1. glad to. “Isn’t it convenient the way people suddenly remember being ‘forced’ to have sex with famous, rich people as soon as other people file lawsuits?”

          and I say it’s much more convenient for the accused that people like you are willing to leap to their defense, and not equally to the defense of the accuser.

          It’s exactly as convenient, and I am going for exactly the same suspicious tone that you seem to have been when you popped in to defend the accused with your omniscience.

          Why claim a position, when facts are not yet out, if not to cause prejudgement and more confusion?

          What do you gain by taking sides at this point? What does the innocent party gain, and are you so sure you’re on that side? What’s your motive, your goal?

          1. As I said, my point is that we shouldn’t rush to judgement here or accept a conveniently-timed accusation at face value when large sums of money are involved. I’m not defending Mr Clash, and I’m certainly not omniscient. As you say, I’m simply casting a very suspicious eye on all of this, because his accusers are, you might say, less than trustworthy. That’s my “motive”.

            Please don’t assume my post means anything more than that. Why are you rushing to cast me as an enabler here?

          2. “I’m not defending Mr Clash, and I’m certainly not omniscient.”

            You’re attacking the accuser and claiming knowledge of his motives, so, in reality, you very much are.

          3. You are now trolling me, pretending I’m saying things I didn’t say, and insisting that I have motives that I don’t have.

            I’m not okay with that.

  7. This case has always seemed to be all about money. While it is true that this may not be the case, that two (or more) people may have been victimized, it hasn’t really looked that way. I’ve read nothing about criminal investigations, just accusations. While that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, there just isn’t a whole lot there to imply that it really did.

    Sadly, I think it is more likely that he is stepping down after being outed. Say what you like about the progression of the acceptance of LGBT individuals in the US, but when dealing with children seems to be where they are most vulnerable to the screeching of the far right.

    Perhaps he stepped down to spare Sesame Street the attacks that were brewing on the horizon.

    1. Careful, I just said the same thing above, and was accused of being complicit and overly sympathetic with Kevin Clash. There’s touchy people here who like taking comments out of context.

  8. Sounds like we’re unlikely to know the truth any time soon. The recanted accusation came as part of a settlement, which allegedly included a $125,000 cash payoff and the accuser now wants to recant his recantation.

  9. I know Kevin and have worked with him.  I also know how much he has dedicated himself to his work at Sesame Workshop over the past three decades, not just as a puppeteer but also as a director and producer.  This is a very sad day for him and I trust and hope he will be able to come through all of this, quickly and with the least amount of pain.

    Kevin’s statement: “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. 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.”

    1.  Please relate to Kevin that when one thing ends, another begins.  He is talented and can create something new.  It is a challenge and an opportunity that I think he will able to turn to his advantage.

  10. He’s replaceable.  Elmo’s side kick Mr. Noodle was replaced by his brother Mr. Noodle and no one seemed to care. (IIRC the original actor died).

    So if  your talent is sounding JUST like Elmo – you may have a lucrative job in the works.

    1. Your notion that acting the character of Elmo is merely a matter of aping a particular voice is ludicrous. Clash is a talented comic actor. Others may be able to perform a good interpretation of Elmo. But nobody will *replace* Kevin Clash, any more than any other actor playing a role can replace those who played it before.

  11. So, regardless of how you feel about it, being sexually interested in 15 year-olds usually isn’t pedophilia. Pedophilia is attraction to people who are prepubescent, usually under 13. If the allegations were true, that would probably mean Clash is an ephebophile, someone who is attracted to people in the second half of their adolescence. (Hebephilia is the term for attraction to people who are in early adolescence).
    It might seem like silly distinctions, but I think a lot of the bullshit around stories like this happens because someone somewhere fails to distinguish, homosexuals, pedophiles, or any other kind of “pervert” as a unique orientation and assumes that they’re generally inclined to depravity and evil.

    1. And it’s only recently (within living memory) that age of consent was raised to a point of making ephebophilia criminal in the western world. I do notice that heteronormative ephebophilia is accepted far more and is legal in many places; just not NewYork unless you are already legally married from elsewhere.

  12. i would like to add that all this circus about the privat sex-affairs of presidents and politicians is very strange to look at for a European like me. Now even puppeteers are losing their job because they had “something” (slimy? gross? perverted?) going on in their life that maybe perhaps might not be 100% kosher. i am not sure if the public humiliation of anybody involved in an affair like this makes the world a better place. for me it’s a) just plain weird and b) engrossing to pull stuff like this out of the closet and make it public. i really do not want to know if the elmo puppeteer fucked or fucked not a 15 year old boy. could stuff like this maybe not just stay where it belongs, meaning: behind closed doors and in the hands of the juridiction? why does the american public have such a perverted joy to talk about sex, something that should be kept private, in public!? why is there a culture of public humiliation and shaming? its 1650 or what? worst thing is that slowly the same kind of culture is even taking roots in Europe. bible, guns and porn… urgh…

  13. to gobo:  I suppose you also believe that the sudden avalanche of Jerry Sandusky’s victims were also all liars and goldiggers???

    Often these victims think they are the only one, that no one would believe them, and that they were complicit simply because they were too naive to say no.  The first brave accuser can indeed be the catalyst for others to come forward.

  14. First, I am most concerned about the potential backlash of this story. It is obviously agreed b/w Sesame Street and Clash that his departure is the best for damage control.  But conservatives are likely to jump on this story to continue separation of public funding to PBS/NPR.  Thankfully Jerry Falwell is dead to give his 2 cents.

    I think in general a public sex scandal is good grounds in the public conscious for separation in the children entertainment business regardless of age or orientation.  Although the only other one that comes to mind in Paul Reubens.

    We can’t possibly know all the details of what actually happened between the two of them.

    For the 15 year old, I have a couple of mixed feelings about the situation.  Obviously, he was below what out society and law considers to be age of consent.  At the same time, when he called the chat line he was presenting himself as being at least 18 by making the call.  Now, we have to assume Clash would have been able to know the difference by the time they met or the first accuser told the truth, at which point Clash should have exited the situation.

    My brother’s wife is 5 years younger than him.  He started dating her while she was in high school.  To our family, she had several 18 year old birthdays.  Honesty, it is still unclear to me how old she really is.  Their relationship was consensual, her parent agreed to relationship because her older sister had a child out of wedlock with a bad-boy while in high school.  They are coming up 10 years married, no children yet.  She has a masters degree, he is an officer in the military.

    My best friend in JR/SR high school had his first relationship with a volunteer youth minister/BBS Sysop.  (Thankfully friend of friend facebbook we have reconnected after 14 years of no contact).  My friend was in junior high, the other a sophomore in college.  I can’t say report that after all these years that they are still together, or that one has fond feelings for the other. But, my friend doesn’t state he was a victim. 

    When I was 17, I had a number of sexual relationship with women far older than me.  I had to hit 18 before anything happened with guys.  In all those situations I knew what I was getting into.  Certainly when I was 15-17 if I have could have pulled something off I, think I would stand by the results as a lesson, personally.  I did have a number of situations where I had advances from men before I was 18 that I did not act or nor tell about to anyone else. Also, when I was 21 I had 3 month relationship with a girl that was 16. She ended it and I wasn’t happy with that. 

    I don’t want to say that the accuser was not a victim.  The worse thing about it all is that b/c of Clash’s public status it cannot be handled between the two of them. Depending on the nature of the relationship, the money could be an insult.

    I am not sure what real justice is.  I know there are too many situations when people that are victims are unable to face their accuser.  Victims that do take action against their accuser and see now result.  People that don’t like how things went down and then cry fowl.  And, plenty of people that don’t like how a relationship went and can’t do anything about it.

    I feel bad for everybody involved in this situation.

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