Man says relationship with Elmo puppeteer 'adult, consensual'

Clash taking leave of absence from 'Sesame Street'

NEW YORK - A man who alleged he was 16 when he started a relationship with the puppeteer who provides the voice of Elmo on "Sesame Street" now says it was an "adult consensual relationship," according to his lawyers.

The man, now 23, had told Sesame Workshop in June that he started a relationship with Kevin Clash as a teenager, according to the workshop. The workshop announced on Monday that a thorough investigation found "the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."

On Tuesday, a law firm saying it represented the man released a statement saying he "wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship."

"We will have no further comment on the matter," the statement from Pennsylvania law firm Andreozzi & Associates said.

Clash, 52, and the Sesame Workshop responded Tuesday with statements of their own.

"I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further," Clash said in a message released by his representative.

"We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode," the workshop said on its website.

A day earlier, both Sesame Workshop and Clash indicated the man was claiming that he was a teenager when Clash began a relationship with him. Clash acknowledged a relationship between "two consenting adults," but said the man otherwise was making a "false and defamatory allegation."

"I am a gay man," Clash said in a statement issued Monday. "I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.

"I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was."

Both Clash and Sesame Workshop said Monday that Clash was taking a leave of absence to deal with the allegation and protect his reputation.

Clash is the high-pitched voice of the iconic furry red Elmo, whom he's been playing since 1984, winning Emmy Awards along the way.

He was the third Muppeteer to take on the role.

Clash is also Sesame Street's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain, the "Sesame Street" website says.

A documentary, "Being Elmo," focused on his story.

In an interview previously posted on the website of NYC Dads, an initiative of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he spoke about how he worked to spend time with his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife outside Baltimore.