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Puppeteer Behind Elmo Resigns Amid Sex Scandal

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The man who made "Sesame Street's" Elmo famous, has resigned. Kevin Clash worked as a puppeteer for Sesame Workshop, for 28 years. Now, he's leaving following allegations of inappropriate relationships with teenage boys. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: In June of this year, Sesame Workshop said a man came to them, claiming that when he was 16, he had a sexual relationship with Kevin Clash. In a statement released earlier this month, Sesame Workshop said it took the allegation seriously, and conducted a thorough investigation. The statement says they found the charges of an inappropriate relationship unsubstantiated. But their investigation also found that Clash exercised poor judgment, and violated company policy regarding Internet usage. Kevin Clash took a leave of absence.

The next day, the accuser recanted his story. Through his Pennsylvania attorney, the man said his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult, consensual relationship. Clash released a statement, saying he was relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.

But today, another man, 35-year-old Cecil Singleton, filed a lawsuit claiming similar charges against Kevin Clash. He's seeking more than $5 million in damages. Through his personal publicist, Kevin Clash said he is resigning from Sesame Workshop, with a very heavy heart. The statement goes on to say, "Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work 'Sesame Street' is doing, and I cannot allow it to go on any longer." Sesame Workshop released a statement saying, "This is a sad day for 'Sesame Street.' "

As the voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash turned the furry, red monster into one of the most popular children's characters of all time. He's won several Emmy Awards, and also served as Sesame Workshop's senior creative adviser. Last week, Sesame Workshop said Elmo isn't going anywhere, and that other puppeteers have been trained to take Clash's place.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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