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Elmo’s Puppeteer Kevin Clash Takes a Leave of Absence After Being Accused of Sexual Abuse

Kevin Clash arrives at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors held at the Kennedy Center Hall of States on December 4, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Clash, who has voiced Elmo since 1984 and was the subject of the 2011 documentary Being Elmo, has been granted a leave of absence from Sesame Street after being accused of an unlawful sexual relationship seven years ago with a 16-year-old boy. Clash denies the charges. He told TMZ that he "had a relationship with [the accuser]" but it "was between two consenting adults," asserting that their relationship took place after the accuser was of age. The accuser's lawyers claim to have incriminating e-mails from Clash, at least one of which implies a sexual relationship, though Sesame Workshop's lawyers believe them to be fraudulent. Clash is taking a leave in order to focus on refuting these allegations. Elmo, however, will continue to appear on Sesame Street with a replacement puppeteer.

Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images