Fifty-two-year-old Kevin Clash, who, since 1984, has been the voice of the beloved Muppet Elmo, was recently accused of having had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy. Clash took a leave of absence from Sesame Street after the claims surfaced.
In June, a young man contacted Sesame Workshop saying he had a sexual relationship with Clash that began seven years ago when he was 16 and Clash was 45. The accuser also hired lawyers, who in August accused Sesame of trying to “discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters.”
It was subsequently learned through a family source and a friend in confirming the accuser’s identity, named Pennsylvania resident Sheldon Stephens as the man who made claims against Clash. Stephens, now 23, is an aspiring actor and model who was once arrested for robbing a music manager at knifepoint of $250,000 in jewelry. Stephens had interned for the manager prior to the arrest.
Sesame Workshop said they had asked for evidence supporting the claim, which was never provided. There are also reports that the accuser created a fake email purporting to prove his claim. Clash, himself, continues to maintain that the relationship occurred only after the accuser became an adult saying ”I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.” He also added that at no time was Elmo in the room when the sexual activity occurred, and no attempts were made to include him in any sexual activity.
Authorities, in an attempt to get at the truth, have questioned Elmo repeatedly, without Clash in attendance, but the Muppet has maintained his silence. And no accusations had been leveled against the voices of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, or Grover.
A spokespuppet for the International Association of Hand-Directed Beings had this to say: “We are deeply saddened that Elmo has been drawn into this scandal. We have enough problems, as it is. We have fought for years to overcome the negative association with the word ‘dummy,’ as well as the negative connotations of the term “pulling strings.
“This latest episode is yet one more way our integrity has been besmirched. While we are gratified that the voice of Elmo will continue to be heard through another person, we will continue to fight for our rights as puppets and as valuable members of society.
“Even now, we are planning a massive petition to amend the Constitution to enfranchise us. After hearing Mitt Romney declare his intention to axe PBS, our funding institution, we knew we had to take action. This latest episode involving Elmo has mobilized us. Of course, voting booths would have to be redesigned to allow for no-finger voting, and the definition of “person” would have to be expanded to include “hand-directed being.” The age requirement would have to be amended to puppet years, which we have found to be remarkably similar to dog years.”
When asked if it saw a day when a puppet could run for political office, the spokespuppet replied, “Look around you. I think you’d have to agree that, given the crop of current politicians, we could be quite competitive in the brains department. And we have a precedent, you know. The Bush/Cheney thing. We figure the sky’s the limit.