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Sesame sidelines Elmo puppeteer

Clash takes leave of absence amid allegations

Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has taken leave from his duties on “Sesame Street” amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a teenager and improper Internet usage.

Clash, a co-exec producer of the famed children’s program, has won or shared 22 Daytime Emmys and been nominated for 14 more. In June, he became the subject of an internal investigation at Sesame Workshop regarding an accusation from a 23-year-old man that Clash had begun a relationship with him seven years earlier.

“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined.

“Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so.”

Producers indicated that Clash, who is credited for bringing Elmo to life in the 1980s and making him into the most marketable character on the show’s ensemble, would be replaced in that role during his absence. Clash was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”

“Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of ‘Sesame Street’ to engage, educate and inspire children around the world,” Sesame Workshop said.

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