Updated: 11/13/2012 @ 12:30 pm EST –
Kevin Clash accuser has released a racy email to TMZ backing up his story of sexual abuse. The email was sent by Clash to the accuser two years ago (the man would have been 21) where he apologizes repeatedly for “talking about sex” with him. Though Clash had previously said that this relationship was consensual, (see below) it sounds like the two of them were on the rocks at this point in time.
“I’m sorry that I keep talking about sex with you, its driving me insane,” the now-45-year-old puppeteer writes. “I want you to know that I love you and I will never hurt you. I’m here to protect you and make sure your dreams come true. … I’ll have my assistant book a ticket for you to come to NY and we can talk about this in person.”
The Sesame Street Workshop has already reprimanded Clash for bringing his “personal relationship” into the workplace, but the company announced yesterday that they haven’t found any proof that this tryst has occurred while the accuser was underage. Clash has taken a leave of absence from “Sesame Street” to try to fight off these allegations.
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind “Sesame Street’s” Elmo since 1985, has taken a leave of absence from the show following allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy, according to a statement from Sesame Workshop.
Sesame plans to film new episodes using understudies he trained. According to a statement from the Workshop, “Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street.”
An unidentified man, now 23, approached show producer Sesame Workshop in June, alleging that he and Clash, 52, began a relationship seven years ago, when he was 16. Clash has voiced Elmo since 1984, and has helped make the character the show’s most popular toy-seller.
In a statement released by his publicist, Risa Heller, Clash confirmed he had had “a relationship with the accuser” but denies he was underage at the time. “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. 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. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”
TMZ.com, which first reported the story, says the accuser enlisted Andreozzi & Associates, the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm that represented some of the people victimized by Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. But the law firm would neither confirm or deny that, and it told USA TODAY that aspects of TMZ’s report were inaccurate. Workshop representatives met twice with the accuser, and with Clash, and after investigating, it “found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated,” the company said in a statement. But Clash “exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage” and was disciplined.
Though Sesame Street wouldn’t “want to be affiliated with a guy that was having sex with minors,” says Stacey Honowitz, a supervisor in the sex crimes unit of the Broward County, Fla., states attorney’s office and a TV legal analyst, “it’s really hard for anybody to make that call” with guilt in question and no legal charges filed.
She says publicity from the Sandusky trial may provide “strength in numbers” as victims come forward in other cases. “If men are abused as boys, it becomes easier as other people are coming forward.” But it also could provide incentive for an opportunist, she says. And in Clash’s defense, she says, it’s “very rare” for a pedophile to admit sexual contact, and if it was “a consensual relationship, there’s really nothing to say. It’s a call on the part of Sesame Street.”
USA Today contributed to this report.