We here at Screen Rant avoid discussing celebrity’s personal lives and issues, with the exceptions being when it affects an actual film project or television series (see: how the Kristen Stewart/Rupert Sanders affair has changed the direction of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel). Hence, this is the first mention of the recent publicized allegations against longtime Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash (a.k.a. the man responsible for bringing childhood icon Elmo to life).
Today, both the Sesame Workshop and Clash have issued statements announcing the latter’s retirement from the Sesame Street program after 28 years of service – with the intention to avoid further associations between the revered educational program and Clash’s personal matters (which he will now able to resolve in a more discreet fashion).
For those who are just tuning in: last week, it was revealed that Clash has been accused of having an intimate relationship with a now-24 year old man back when he was 16 (the age of consent in New York, where Clash resides, is 17). While that individual – identified as Sheldon Stephens - has since recanted his claim, today reports emerged (via the New York Times) that another person, identified by the name Cecil Singleton, has filed new court docs – alleging that he was underage when he engaged in a relationship with Clash (dating back to 2003).
Bear in mind, the legitimacy of these claims have yet to be proven in a public court of law; hence, for the time being, they are allegations, pure and simple. However, Clash has decided that his temporary leave of absence from Sesame Street (which was to allow him time to deal with these claims on his own) is not sufficient, by releasing the following 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.
The Sesame Workshop has issued its own public response on the matter:
Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that 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.
Of course, Clash (who was the subject of last year’s award-winning Sundance documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey) is far from the first public figure who’s essentially been forced to resign in response to personal issues that become widely-publicized. Such attention-grabbing matters (when dragged out in public) have a tendency to overshadow everything else an artist has accomplished in their career, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate the reported stories are ultimately proven to be.
In the meantime, production on future episodes of Sesame Street are expected to continue according to schedule. Clash had already selected a few puppeteers to continue portraying Elmo while he stepped away from the program, so it shouldn’t be long before a permanent replacement is selected.
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Source: The New York Times